I am a sheep and beef farmer and was on the farm on Monday the 13th just gone.

When Jamie Mackay of The Country radio show rang me at midday for our regular chat on farming in Hawke's Bay and wanted to talk about the drought I told him and his listeners that we had a far more pressing situation to discuss.

I spoke that in 33 years of farming I had never been more alarmed at the risk of fire. Conditions out on my farm and elsewhere were terrifying.

The wind was blowing around 100km. It was hot. Very hot, over 30 degrees. Humidity was very low with the air flow coming across from a scorching and dry Australia. And there was plenty of fuel on ground and dry scrub and trees. I said folk needed to take great care not to use machinery or anything that could cause sparks.


I take no great pleasure in being proven correct in this prediction.

As we know around that time the fire over the Red Bridge towards Waimarama was about to develop and subsequently the massive one only just brought under control on the Port Hills near Christchurch.

Well done to Lawrence Yule for his immediate action in calling a state of emergency and allowing the emergency services to be able to call on resources outside of Hawke's Bay and get access to resources that they wouldn't have been able to get without that decision.

And well done to those firefighters and chopper pilots who prevented an even worse catastrophe developing here as it has been allowed to happen with Christchurch as authorities sat on their hands.

I hear now that there will be an inquiry into the Canterbury fires to see why a state of emergency wasn't called and why a small fire was able to develop into one that burnt 2000 hectares.

Burnham Army Camp is just down the road and they could have had hundreds of professionals there instead of practising marching just as quickly as Hastings District Council was able to get help in our fire.

One of the resources that Mr Yule provided with his prompt decision was immediate access to water without a consent.

The choppers with their monsoon buckets were able to help themselves from the Tuki Tuki despite the low flows on the day. Water limitations have been a problem for the Banks Peninsula situation.


I firmly believe in climate change and farming now is much more difficult as far as the seasons are concerned than it was when I began farming.

We will see far more events like we are witnessing now with floods, fire and drought.
And the river systems will continue to flow at lower rates than in the past when the rainfall in the mountains was once higher thus replenishing them.

Here's a thought.

Imagine if we were able to capture the large amounts of winter rainfall in dams in our catchments and release them at short notice into the river systems.

This so that emergency services have access to large amounts of easily available water should our cities ever catch fire after earthquakes like that one that caused Napier to burn in 1931, if it had been Te Mata Peak on fire on Monday or the fires that very nearly resulted in catastrophic consequences for Christchurch.

Steve Wyn-Harris is a sheep and beef farmer in Central Hawke's Bay.