A month after a fire devastated the tiny village of Lake Ōhau in the Mackenzie Basin, Logan Church checks in with a community trying to rebuild.
The earth is still scorched around Lake Ōhau village - it's black, crisp and hardened, mostly dead.
But a month on from the fire that tore through the picturesque settlement, greenery is starting to emerge.
New life. A new start, for the ravaged community.
A devastating fire broke out in the early hours on October 4 – a Sunday - with residents waking to what many later described as a "firestorm".
The night before had been windy, even for Lake Ōhau standards. Some residents spent the previous night tying down loose items outside. One homeowner told the Herald on Sunday at the time he knew something bad was going to happen.
The town itself is small, about 100 homes nestled against Lake Ōhau, roughly 30 minutes' drive from Twizel, the nearest town.
Many properties were holiday homes, so the population grew and shrunk over any year.
But on October 4, being the school holidays, the village was filled with people.
When the sirens sounded, residents and visitors hurriedly enacted their evacuation plan.
Cars were piled into and sped away, drivers tooting loudly as they fled, making sure people were awake.
Some residents could not hear the sirens due to the high winds – they were only woken by neighbours running through the dark streets to bang on doors and windows.
There is still disbelief no one was physically hurt or killed that morning.
But the sunrise exposed the sheer destructive force of the firestorm that struck this community.
In total, about 46 homes were destroyed, another 15 damaged. More than 5000ha had been scorched - about twice the size of the 2017 Port Hills fire or the 2019 Nelson fires.
Almost a month on from the fire the village is still cordoned off, although property owners can enter for short periods of time.
Waitaki Mayor, Gary Kircher, visited the village with his wife last weekend.
He says about 20 per cent of the destroyed homes have been cleaned up.
"It certainly improves things not having that debris sitting around - not just from a visual sense but also health and safety.
"It's really important to move that debris before the winds take it further."
Residents are not yet allowed to move back while the piles of debris made it unsafe.
"They are almost able to. It's probably still a couple of weeks away. It is really around that safety – while there is that loose iron around it's just not safe for people to be there on an ongoing basis."
They are able to visit though. Kircher says he met a couple who lived in Christchurch but owns a property in the village. They have come down to scavenge what remains of their house and see if they can save anything.
Meanwhile, the Waitaki District Council is working to try and reconnect properties to the council's water and wastewater network, which much of the town is on.
The pipes that feed those homes need to be checked.
Power is also slowly being reconnected with "a number of houses" already back on the network.
One of the most striking parts of Kircher's visit was seeing greenery start to show through the blackened earth.
"There is quite a bit of green around the burnt areas. It hasn't taken that long for it to start returning to what it used to be.
"Shrubs and bush will take a bit longer but it good to see nature coming back and throwing a bit of colour back into the blackness."
Some residents are also already planning to rebuild.
Janet Brown and her husband moved to the area in 2006 and spent three years building a four-bedroom home by hand.
The 2008 Global Financial Crisis forced them to move to Auckland, but they kept their Lake Ōhau home and everything in it, and rented it out as a holiday home through Bookabach.
Brown, her husband, and two children were in the village with friends when the fire broke out. The blaze "melted" their house.
"The chimney that survived is like a biscuit, it's just crumbling," Brown says.
"There is no foundation. Under the tin is melted glass, melted aluminium, there are millions of nails that my husband nailed in himself.
The fireplace had melted, boulders in a rock wall were cracked.
A firefighter told them if they had not fled, they would have been incinerated.
"You saw that all lying there ... it was just devastating."
After spending a week in nearby Twizel, Brown and her family went back to Auckland.
Even though she says her family is lucky to have another house to go to, it has still been hard getting to grips with what has happened.
"We were exhausted. I didn't make the kids go to school because the fatigue really set in when we got back."
She says her family struggled to sleep.
"We found that no one was sleeping and we were all having nightmares.
"We'd wake up and compare our nightmares ... I guess that is part of the shock."
But Brown and her family are already putting plans together to rebuild their property.
"I talked to my architect as soon as we got back and she said 'let's make lemonade out of lemons'.
"We're rebuilding and we are going to build it better."
But they are going to build differently. There will be no more wooden decks. Brown says during the fire, embers were landing on wooden decks and then flew upwards, propelled by air underneath them.
Instead Brown has asked for a concrete terrace to be built.
"We'll make it look nice but we're not having another wooden deck."
She is also going to carefully consider what plants were put on the property.
"I had giant red grasses...they are the worst things to have around your house.
"I'm going to have a rock garden ... pebbles everywhere and an irrigated lawn."
They are also considering moving the house further away from their neighbours.
She says her insurance company had been "amazing", but had heard a few complaints about other insurance companies.
The Insurance Council of New Zealand says figures on the insurance cost of the fire will not be available until six weeks after the event.
Meanwhile, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is still investigating what caused the fire.
The organisation previously asked for any photographs or video of the fire from the morning it broke out to be sent to it.
"A fire investigation into the cause and origin of the Lake Ōhau fire is underway - this was a significant fire and the investigation will take some time to complete," Fenz region manager Mike Grant told the Herald on Sunday.
"Although we are yet to finalise our investigation, we have determined that a number of factors have influenced the size and behavior of the fire, such as terrain, high temperatures, and severe winds.
"We will be able to comment further once the investigation is complete."
As the clean-up continues, donations are still flooding into the Mayoral Relief Fund.
The Government pitched in $100,000, but Kircher said it had received about another $115,000.
Donations came from a wide range of sources, including Meridian Energy, who Kircher says gave a "generous" donation.
Homeowners directly affected are also putting up cash to help, with a home owner who lived on the other side of the world giving $2500 to help.
The Waitaki District Council is also talking to local Lions clubs about what support they can give.
A "reasonable amount" of the funds is going towards things like fixing council services.
Kircher said if assistance was not given for that work the cost would fall on local ratepayers.
He says the council is also assisting to clean up "a number" of uninsured properties.
"It's something that benefits everyone as it helps everyone move back in sooner."
There was also discussion about rebuilding the village better than it was before.
Brown wants power lines to be buried due to the high winds.
"We could go forward, we could build a solar farm, we could become a template for the future."
She also wanted everyone to work together to make sure wilding pines, which some blame for the rapid spread of the blaze, do not come back.
Something, she said, everyone needs to take responsibility for.
"I don't want to be walking over that scorched land and see these wilding pines coming back."
Kircher also encourages residents to carefully consider how they rebuilt their homes.
"It's not the be-all and end-all but it improves the odds and that's really important in a situation like this.
"Even if a house does catch on fire if it has materials that take a lot longer to burn then that gives people more time."