Northlanders to fight Aussie bush fires

By Imran Ali

A Department of Conservation crew from Northland are among 12 Kiwi firefighters leaving for Tasmania today to help battle deadly bush fires.

The six Northlanders - four from Whangarei, one from the Kauri Coast and another from the Bay of Islands - will team up with a forestry crew from Nelson, plus a liaison officer, and fly out of Auckland this afternoon.

It will be Whangarei veteran firefighter Glen Coulston's first overseas deployment in the 19 years he's been with DoC, although he's helped out in other parts of New Zealand.

"There's a very short window of time to get sorted and be on the plane. It's a mission to put together a team when people are on holidays but there are those always keen and willing to go,"

Mr Coulston said.

The nature of the work in Tasmania was much bigger than what he dealt with locally.

His colleague, Matiu Mataira, considers himself the "baby" among the crew, having joined DoC only about four years ago. He went to Victoria on a training exercise last year, but said Tasmania would be different.

"The environment there is much drier, it's a really fire-prone habitat and the land area is different to what we deal with here," he said.

The deployment should be for a minimum of 18 days.

Other Northlanders making the trip were Paul Cornille, Clea Gardiner (Whangarei), James McLaughlin (Kauri Coast), and Clinton Lyall (Bay of Islands).

The call for support, based on a transtasman agreement, could see more crews head to Australia as temperatures soar above 40C in New South Wales.

Whangarei-based Forest Protection Services, which has helped in South Australia and in the US in the past, is on stand-by.

- Northern Advocate

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