Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a press conference after today’s cabinet.

Posted by on Sunday, 10 February 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today that residents of Wakefiled will be ale to return to their homes at 5pm today.

She called this a "significant milestone in the response to the fire", though the fire still presents a risk, and returning residents will need to remain prepared.

Ardern made the announcement following a Cabinet meeting today.


Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi, who accompanied Ardern, said an additional $50,000 will be provided to the Mayoral Relief Fund to plug any gaps in funding.

He also said the Government has set up a number - 0800 77997, available from 5pm today - that anyone can ring with any queries regarding the fire and the response to it.

Ardern and Faafoi thanked all those who had worked hard to battle the fire.

The Government has already put $20,000 into the Mayoral Relief Fund, announced last week.

Ardern said the fund was for "the gaps in the middle", such as damage to fences that was done to access the fire, or alterations to land to access water.

"This is to make sure there is not gap in the support we provide."

Faafoi said animal welfare was an issue that had been raised, as well as local businesses that had been put out in the last week.

Ardern encouraged people who were struggling financially to contact the Ministry of Social Development to ask about an financial assistance that might be available to them.


She said the Ministry for Primary Industries was also looking at animal welfare.

Faafoi said he expected more requests to the Government for money.

Faafoi said about 400 people who were evacuated earlier last week - not from Wakefield - were still yet to be cleared to return home.

Ardern said when it comes time to look at the response, the Government will look at whether there was a sufficient plan to tackle multiple fires at once.

"That's the kind of contingency we need to have in place."

About 2500 to 3000 people have been evacuated due to the fire, and firefighters say the blaze could still be burning in March.

But Civil Defence controller Roger Ball said Wakefield residents could return home today, with the exact time to be decided this afternoon.

Today is day seven of the devastating forest fires south of Nelson, which have covered an area of about 2300ha.

Last week the Government announced a $20,000 Mayoral Relief Fund to help the authorities battling the Tasman fire.