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What have I done? – Great Barrier Island fire risk

  • January 22nd, 2013

At 5:15pm  I got back to my office to find colleagues looking at me askance. They showed me the Stuff story, posted at 4:58 pm, of a concerning fire on Great Barrier Island.

At around 4:10 pm this afternoon I'd explained on Jim Mora's Panel my concern about the fire risk on Great Barrier Island. No I did not have prior knowledge of the Stuff story. And I hope this is not the fire I publicly worried about, because there will be no pleasure in "I told you so".

GBI is so much more beautiful than I'd expected.  We've just had a wonderful long weekend there attending Emma Daniell's wedding to Sam Judd.  I was yet again awed by lucky we are to be New Zealanders – with so many places to go where you can be the only people in your own tourist brochure. We made footprints in pristine sand and shared translucent water with virtually no one near.

I was puzzled though by the relative absence of birdsong and a dawn chorus, given that it has no possums, no stoats or Norway rats. I thought they were the chief bird predators? Are there too few bird feeding plants? Do they need more introduced vegetation to support the kind of populations that are now common even in the heart of big cities? Is that the effect of cats without rats to eat?

 But also I was struck by how much will be lost on GBI when a big fire coincides with a drought year. Far too little open country for fire breaks – too many kanuka-girt houses stuck up long drives that could trap residents in furnace tunnels in the wrong winds..

Assuming the current fire is not the big one, go walk the GBI tracks now before the whole island becomes one great gloomy kauri forest again (pending fire). At the moment one can see out from track viewpoints. But there are too few gaps now along some tracks, and the kauri regeneration is much faster than I expected.

A little less knee-jerk greenery, and a bit more human foot-print could be a safer balance. For those who worry about the "sustainability" of mining, go see if you can find degradation (or any trace at all) from the copper mining that went on for years. The Ore Stamper is there, but vegetation is triumphant everywhere else.




Just listening to The Panel now, thinking “Woah, prescient.” Well said, soothsayer.

As for the cats and the birds, just consider it evolution’s way of kicking the surviving proto-dinosaurs into the next genetic footprint. There’s no shortage of smart birds here among the suburban jungles.

  • peterquixote
  • January 22nd, 2013
  • 7:48 pm

yes friend of New Zealand you will always write

  • Roger Strong
  • January 23rd, 2013
  • 9:53 am

Re cats: I am amazed at how little people apparently know about our native wildlife and the effect that introduced animals have had on it. Reading the book on Richard Henry one is struck by how little has been learned.
You are right of course about houses surrounded by regenerating bush-mostly manuka/kanuka which is highly flamable unlike the bush itself which will certainly burn but in ‘normal’ weather is generally much less likely to do so.
Thanks also for you comment on immigration/treaty issues on the panel-we seldom hear anything like that-especially on Red Radio! Amanda Miller was(almost)stunned into silence by some of what you said-well for a nanosecond anyway.

  • peterquixote
  • January 24th, 2013
  • 9:50 pm

Gareth Morgan is a Green idiot, he is mad
oh god we must be rid of them all

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