Key Points:

  • 2500 to 3000 people have been evacuated.
  • 170 homes were on standby to evacuate overnight.

Fire crews have braced for the stronger winds forecast in Tasman this afternoon where a massive blaze has burned since Tuesday.

At a 4pm briefing, Nelson Tasman Civil Defence controller Roger Ball said there were no major developments at this time.

"The risk remains high. Residents of all evacuated areas should expect to be out of their homes for some days to come."

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Regarding access to Wakefield, "we do understand it's frustrating" but there was no possibility for temporary access for residents, he said.

Ball said any donations should be directed to the Mayoral Relief Fund, via the Tasman District Council's ASB Bank account.

The other official donation channel is via the New Zealand Red Cross and a Givealittle page has also been set up by the NZ Emergency Services Solutions charity.

A hundred per cent of funds would be donated to bush fire victims in the Nelson area, the page said, as well as to the NZ emergency service groups who were helping with the relief and rescue effort.

By 9pm, just over $20,500 had been donated.

NEXT COMMUNITY MEETINGS:

The next community meetings are:

• 5.30pm Monday 11 February, Appleby School‬
• 7.30pm Monday 11 February, Hope Community Church on Ranzau Rd‬

Primary schooling was able to resume at the Hope Community Church tomorrow, he said.

Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) incident controller John Sutton said it had been a "very productive" day.

"We haven't as yet observed any extreme fire behaviour."

It was "nothing like what we were expecting by this time of the day" with winds at about 20km/h with slightly higher gusts.

They were continuing to remove heat from the edge of the fire, he said.

"I'm feeling pretty good today ... the outlook is improving somewhat."

Hopefully by the end of tomorrow they might be able to strategically look at other parts of the fire, he said.

They implemented a different tactic today with a small controlled burn in the north-west area to deny the fire fuel in a controlled way, he said.

"There's two things that drive us, one is wind - we are frightened of it- and the other is time," he said.

"I don't want to smile too much but I am feeling much better.

All of the forestry owners were involved here and had been "generous with help".

Some were in the management team, others were helping fight the fire, he said.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read said investigations continued in respect to the Rabbit Island and Iwa Rd fires.

"It's important to continue complying with any evacuation notices," he said.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said it had been a positive day.

"The volunteers are doing an extraordinary job."

Reese said she wanted them to call out for help and take breaks as needed.

"I could not be happier with the response we have had from Fire and Emergency New Zealand."

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said he would like to compliment those who had been evacuated for their patience.

"Although we have had a really good day with firefighting, this is far from over.

Everything was being done to try and get people back in their homes as soon as possible, he said.

Earlier, Sutton said they had a good night last night fighting the fire and had established a perimeter around the fire.

There were still concerns in the northern area but the priority was the southeast division because that was where the wind was predicted for today, Sutton said.

"We are anticipating that wind to start progressing from early afternoon," Sutton said.

The fire would reach the river flat this afternoon, Sutton said.

"It's going to test us. It probably depends on whether the wind exceeds predictions or not.

"The unknown factor is what peak that wind will reach this afternoon but I just want to assure you we are as well prepared as we could possibly be."

The blaze remains about 2km from Wakefield.

Sutton said two things happened overnight: bulldozer work continued and crews on the ground worked on any area they could identify was burning.

"It was probably the quietest night we have had since we started this incident in terms of fire activity, which was great.

"The predicted strong winds this afternoon is something we have known about all week, and really that has driven our strategy.

"We are managing with water, we are transporting lots of water but we are doing okay."

Sutton said they had started rotating some crews out but "they don't seem to want to go".

The morale was very strong - "they want to see this through", he said.

Among them the majority were volunteers, 150 firefighters were on the ground today, he said.

Twenty-three helicopters were in the air today, he said.

Civil Defence earlier announced it had put a ban on certain activities in part of the Nelson Tasman region in order to reduce the fire risk as the large blaze continued to rage.

Controller Rob Smith announced this morning those using certain types of outdoor machinery would need to hold off because "one spark could be enough to cause a fire in these conditions".

Farmers, contractors and anyone using such machinery in Nelson and the Waimea and Motueka valleys will need to defer their activities because of the extreme fire danger.

The directive was issued under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and the following high-risk activities are prohibited in the defined area for the duration of the State of Emergency.

• Prohibited activities include those where metal meets stone: mowing, discing, harrowing, stump grinding and cultivation.

• Outdoor activities that can generate sparks or fire are also prohibited, and include gas cutting, welding, angle grinding, and all use of chainsaws and scrub/bar cutters.

• Commercial forest harvesting activities are also to cease, but provision can be made for the loading and mobilising of harvested material from landings.

Smith said he was mindful this would cause some inconvenience, but it was an essential precaution to help prevent more fires during the current period of extreme fire danger.

A helicopter using a monsoon bucket fighting the Tasman bush fires near Wakefield, Nelson. Photo / Leon Menzies
A helicopter using a monsoon bucket fighting the Tasman bush fires near Wakefield, Nelson. Photo / Leon Menzies

"We are not expecting this directive to limit activities where there is adequate [pressurised] fire control available, or those activities not generating fire risk such as horticultural spraying or feeding stock," he said.

"Landowners should be aware that many activities on land can cause fires and people should take action and be aware of what constitutes good fire management protocol.

"For example, not parking vehicles on long, dry grass, disposing of cigarette butts inside your car, mowing domestic lawns, and making sure electric fences are not arcing.

"We will be talking with Federated Farmers and other industry groups and local contractors to enlist their co-operation."

The prohibition will be reviewed on Tuesday, when the present Civil Defence-declared emergency is reviewed.

The announcement comes after an estimated 170 houses were asked to prepare to evacuate in the Wai-iti area, just south of Wakefield, last night.

Rural firefighter Dave Houston manning a pump on the fringes of the Tasman bush fires at Teapot Valley near Nelson. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Rural firefighter Dave Houston manning a pump on the fringes of the Tasman bush fires at Teapot Valley near Nelson. Photo / Mark Mitchell

As of 11.30pm yesterday there were still active hotspots continue to hamper efforts for re-entry in Eves Valley, and an active fire area in Pigeon Valley. Teapot Valley was said to be a matter of priority for this morning.

"The priority for this operation remains protection of life and public safety," Civil Defence said.

Anyone preparing to evacuate was asked to find any house pets and bring them inside,
leave cellphones on and charged, prepare essential items such as food, clothing and medication, and ensure their vehicle had enough fuel for the return trip.

Speaking yesterday, Nelson Tasman Civil Defence incident controller Roger Ball said there was no end to the state of emergency in sight.

"There is no prospect in the immediate future of that declaration ending."

The Nelson fire seen after a flare-up near Wakefield on Thursday. Photo / Aimee Jules
The Nelson fire seen after a flare-up near Wakefield on Thursday. Photo / Aimee Jules

The situation was dynamic and there remained a threat to life and properties, he said.

State Highway 6 also remains closed and the Defence Force continues to run escorted convoys.

Civil Defence said for a cordon to open, several conditions must be met, including that it must be safe to enter and entry will not inhibit any firefighting operation, and there must be available personnel to monitor current fire activity.

FENZ must also be confident it can provide operational response if an emergency occurs, while not compromising the main firefighting effort.

MPI and SPCA praise efforts

MPI and the SPCA are praising the efforts of staff and the many volunteers involved in the animal welfare response to the Tasman fires.

"With over 200 lifestyle blocks in the fire-affected area of Tasman District, the animal welfare effort has been widely spread and the support has been very strong," MPI response manager Charlotte Austin said.

"Where possible, animals are being tended to in place, which is less stressful for them. Crews are working behind the cordon where they can, taking food and water and in some cases bringing animals back to the Richmond Showgrounds."

One of three farms in the area had its 150 cows and 50 calves moved to a less vulnerable part of the farm. From another property, 10 pigs and piglets were rescued and taken to the showgrounds. Household pets have also been taken there.

"We re-visited Redwood Valley yesterday when cordons were briefly opened to residents. We are confident that every one of the animals still in place in the valley has been accounted for, fed and watered, and is in a good state," Austin said.

Austin said people could be reassured there were teams on the ground focused on the welfare of animals and people.

"This is an incredibly worrying time for animal owners in the affected areas. They are desperately concerned for their animals and livestock, and we are, too.

"Our people are dedicated to the welfare of animals and we will give our all to ensure their protection, but we cannot put human safety or resources dedicated to fighting the fire at risk."

• Anyone who is worried about animals whether inside the cordon, or anywhere near the fires, should phone 0800 008 333