Owner to pay $60,000 for burn-off that went wrong

The private owner of a Hawkes Bay forest that was set alight after a burn-off will find himself with a $60,000 bill.

At the height of the fire, in a pine plantation near Puketapu, three helicopters with monsoon buckets attacked the fire from the air as about 60 people toiled on the ground.

Kevin Deacon, operations manager for Hastings District Council, said the landowner, who had started the fire during a burn-off operation which got out of hand, would be faced with the bill.

"When you have got three choppers in there for the afternoon it starts to add up," he said.

Mr Deacon called for extra care with any planned burn-offs.

Last Friday's fire began with a controlled burn, which was started in still conditions.

He praised the efforts of the organisations which turned out to control the fire, including the New Zealand Fire Service, Rural Fire crews, teams from Pan Pac and the Department of Conservation, and the Salvation Army, which helped to feed the firefighters.

"That so many organisations were able to respond is a sign that we've got a very well-organised and supportive rural fire network in Hawkes Bay."

Mr Deacon said controlled fires could leap large distances into shelter belts and patches of dry scrub if the wind picked up, and green spring growth disguised a lot of dead and dry material underneath.

- NZPA

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