A devastating fire burned 1645 hectares of land on the Port Hills in February 2017, claiming the life of one firefighter and destroying nine homes and two other structures.

Port hills fire damage

Initially there were two fires that started on Monday 13 February, but they merged into one, cutting across the boundary from Selwyn District into Christchurch City with a 51 kilometre perimeter.

At its peak there were up to 150 people on the ground battling the blaze and 14 helicopters and three fixed wing aircraft. More than 36 agencies were involved in the firefighting effort.

Several hundred people were evacuated and a state of local emergency was in place for Christchurch and Selwyn for two weeks, ending on 1 March.

Aerial imagery shows the extent of the fires.

Track and walks

Some Port Hills tracks remain temporarily closed. Check on the status of tracks

Christchurch Adventure Park

The Christchurch Adventure Park remains closed until further notice. Read more

The recovery plan

Recovery teams in Christchurch and Selwyn have been tasked with developing a recovery plan. This would focus on four main areas: Natural environment, built environment, social and economic.

The two men tasked with leading the Port Hills fire recovery are aiming to have a recovery action plan completed within a few weeks. Murray Sinclair and Al Lawn were appointed as recovery managers for Christchurch city and Selwyn district respectively by the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group Joint Committee on February 24.

Since then, they and the multi-agency team they have assembled have been working to assess the full extent of the fire’s impact. The team is focusing on four areas – the impact on the natural environment, the impact on the built environment, the impact on people’s lives, and on the economy.

They have also been gathering information on how the fire behaved in the hope they can prevent a repeat of the conditions that led to the devastating blaze.

Mr Sinclair said a key focus of the recovery plan was on building resilience and mitigating risk so it was important they had a comprehensive understanding of the fire’s behaviour and why it did what it did.

As part of the recovery planning they would look at whether there should be a requirement for property owners on the urban/rural boundary to have a ‘defensible space’ around their homes.

A defensible space is essentially a buffer that separates a house from the surrounding vegetation so it slows or stops the spread of fire.

Mr Lawn said high on the pair’s list of priorities this week was establishing a framework that matched those keen to help with the recovery with those in need of help.

“We want to encourage and enable the community as much as possible and be pragmatic. We know that people don’t want to be tied up with bureaucracy so we intend to work hard to balance that against safety considerations,’’ Mr Lawn said.

Read more about the experience the recovery managers bring to their roles 


Recovery team weekly reports

Below are links to the weekly reports from the Christchurch recovery team. Some information has been redacted because it contains personal information or material that is commercially sensitive. 


Port Hills Recovery Plan Discussion Document

The Port Hills Recovery Plan Discussion Document outlines the recovery goals, how the recovery of the Port Hills may be carried out, what success may look like and captures some of the feedback we received at community meetings. 

We are seeking feedback from key stakeholders and affected communities on the discussion document including the recovery goals and what a successful recovery and regeneration could look like.

Feedback from the discussion document will be incorporated into the final Port Hills Recovery Plan. 

Download the Port Hills Recovery Plan Discussion Document [PDF 888KB]and feedback template

All feedback must be received by 5pm on Tuesday 25 April.

Recovery projects

Recovery works and how people can contribute to the Port Hills recovery effort.

Port Hills Fire Restoration Fund

People wanting to contribute to the Port Hills recovery effort can donate to the Port Hills Fire Restoration Fund, which is being managed by the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust.

The fund is a collaborative effort between Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, government agencies, conservation groups and the public, and will support the recovery efforts on publicly owned conservation land and private land with important ecological values and conservation covenants.

Details about making a donation can be found on the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust website.


Ohinetahi Reserve

The Port Hills fires have seriously impacted the Summit Road Society’s Ohinetahi Reserve, with 83 hectares of native reserve burnt. Up to 1.3km of fencing also needs replacing.  

Find out more about how you can help Summit Road Society volunteers to preserve the landscape and remaining biodiversity at the Summit Road Society’s webpage.


Re-seeding – by drone

Drones have been used in a New Zealand-first trial to reseed the Port Hills following the fires.

Find out more about Drones and the Port Hills.

Home owner information

Welfare and practical information and contact details for people affected by the Port Hills fires.

The Port Hills fires have caused significant hardship for a number of residents and also affected the wider Christchurch community.


Wellbeing

Christchurch City Council has an emergency support team who are available to help people access services if they require support. Contact the Council on 03 941 8999. In an emergency, always phone 111.

Tips to help you cope
It is normal to feel anxious or stressed during abnormal events. Talking about how you feel to someone you trust can help. Check out AllRight for tips.

The Canterbury Earthquake Support Line is also available on 0800 777 846.

Free GP Visits
GP visits are free for residents affected by the fires until 13 April 2017. Just book your appointment as usual and during your consultation mention your reason for the visit is related to the Port Hills fires.


Building safety 

Electricity
If you have any concerns about your electricity please call Orion on 0800 363 9898.

Water
Your water should be clear and odour-free. Pressure should be the same as it was before the fires at all fixtures. If you have any concerns, contact the Council on 03 941 8999.

Stormwater
Please check your gutters and downpipes are intact with no signs of ponding that you haven’t previously experienced during rain events.

Sewer
Please check your toilets, showers, basins, etc, flush and drain as expected with no foul smells.

Buildings/structures
If you have any concerns about the safety of your building(s), or structures following the fires, please contact the Council on 03 941 8999 in the first instance.

Some properties may have experienced minor damage and discussions can quickly resolve whether any consents will be required for repairs or not.


Civil Defence payments

Civil Defence payments are available to people who have incurred costs as a result of the fire. The payments are managed through Work and Income on behalf of Civil Defence, but you do not have to register or be a Work and Income client to access them. To discuss your circumstances please phone 0800 559 009.


Insurance

If you have suffered damage from the fire you should immediately contact your insurer, if you have not already done so.


Animal welfare

For animal control advice please call the Council on 03 941 8999.

 

 

Resources

Links and presentations about the fire and fire protection.

Advice on protecting your property from fire

The National Rural Fire Authority has information on fire safety tips and practical ways to protect your property.

You may also find these links helpful:


Ecological impact of the fire

At a meeting in March, people with expertise and an interest in the ecology of the Port Hills met to discuss the impact of the fire and look at regeneration and protection measures.

Below are copies of presentations by Dr Tim Curran, senior lecturer in ecology at Lincoln University, and Professor David Norton from the School of Forestry at University of Canterbury.

Port Hills Complex Fire 2017 Ecological Stakeholders Presentation PowerPoint David Norton

Port Hills Complex Fire 2017 Ecological Stakeholders Presentation Tim Curran

This article describes in more detail the ideas behind green firebreaks.

The Conversation - Low flammability plants could help our homes survive bushfires