The financial cost of the Nelson fire is starting to add up as the blaze now extends into its second week.

And it could yet exceed the devastating Port Hills fires in 2017, which cost the Selwyn region an estimated $30 million.

The wildfires have so far burned through 2300 hectares in the Nelson-Tasman region, destroyed one home, and led to evacuations of more than 1000 people - some of whom have been able to return to their homes.

It has been the largest aerial firefight in New Zealand's history, with 23 helicopters and two planes used at the peak of the fire.


Fire and Emergency New Zealand said the cost of the aircraft, ground machinery, and other firefighting resources had been $1 million a day for the first week of the fire. That daily cost would now fall as the fire was under control and fewer resources were required.

The helicopters have been running 12 hours a day and with an hourly bill of $2000, their daily cost was believed to be in excess of $500,000.

The forestry industry has been the worst-hit by the fires, losing an estimated 1900 hectares and having to shut down its operations within the fire perimeter.

That has temporarily put 240 contractors out of work and closed two sawmills. Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the estimated cost of lost productivity was $2 million a day - or around $14 million so far.

Farmers in the region have also had to put a halt to any use of equipment out of concern that any sparks could restart fires in the rain-starved region.

Insurance claims will push the bill much higher. In the Port Hills, nearly $18m was paid out, around $10m of which was for house and contents insurance.

In Nelson, just one house has been confirmed as destroyed. However, the area of land affected is far greater than in Christchurch.

The costs in major fires are divided between a range of agencies and authorities, including the local council.


The New Zealand Defence Force has contributed 220 personnel and two aircraft to the firefight, though those costs are covered by the NZDF's own budget.

The Government has so far contributed $120,000 in support for the region, and the Ministry of Social Development has been providing hardship support and grants.

Nelson fires (Feb 6-ongoing)
Hectares: 2300
Duration: 8 days (so far)
Homes destroyed: 1
Homes evacuated: 1100
Port Hills fires (Feb 2017)
Deaths: 1
Hectares: 1645
Duration: 15 days (66 days until fully extinguished)
Homes destroyed: 9 (+ 5 damaged)
Homes evacuated: 450