June 16, 2022, 8:19 p.m.
NEW LIFE BEGINS TO SHOW WITHIN THE KAIMAUMAU WETLANDS PHOTO: KERYN PIVAC
Rewind to December 2021, when the local community of Kaimaumau feared for their homes, their whānau, and their belongings. The high wind speeds combined with unfavourable wind directions put livelihoods in danger of falling victim to the destruction of a raging wildfire.
Te Hiku Media’s Haukāinga team spoke to Nigel Dravitzki (Fire and Incident Controller of Fire and Emergency New Zealand) about the fire at the time and how a cyclone from Fiji was causing concern so extra preventative measures were put in place at that time. He described, in detail, the complexities of each procedure used to reduce the risk of the fire spreading north toward Houhora.
Te Hiku Radio spoke to Peter Clark (Fire and Emergency Incident Controller) about the resources and efforts put in by over 100 fire staff involved in extinguishing the fire 30 days into the burn. Ngapae Holiday Park was part of the local ecosystem to support the firefighters and spoke to Te Hiku Radio about how they played their part. The local iwi, Ngāi Takoto, local businesses and local caterers also provided wrap-around support. It was a community effort where consideration was put into supporting local. All who worked over twelve-hour shifts to battle the fire collectively.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Takoto Chairman, Wallace Rivers, told Te Hiku Media that the iwi were able to share resources, skills and knowledge to exercise ‘kaitiakitanga-ship’ collectively over the whenua in a way that brought out the best possible result.
The Kaimaumau fire claimed over 2400ha of magnificent land which included wāhi tapu, native and non-native plantations, and also one of Northland's largest wetlands - the Kaimaumau wetland. The wetland area comprises of Motutangi Swamp, Otiaita, Lake Waikaramu, and Waihauhau Swamp.
SKYWORX HELI FLIGHT OVER THE FIRE DAMAGE IN KAIMAUMAU, DECEMBER 2021 PHOTO: KERYN PIVAC
Aroha Hughes of the Department of Conservation elaborated on the ecological impact during a December 2021 interview;
"The Department of Conservation are concerned about the orchids and mudfish species that are at critical levels. The recovery plan will take 10 to 15 years to restore the area to its former glory, manage weeds, and in rebuilding resilience within the community" said Hughes.
VIBRANT COLOURS BEGIN TO TAKE SHAPE THROUGHOUT KAIMAUMAU, JUNE 2022 PHOTO: KERYN PIVAC
“There are not only native species in there, we have some weedy species too like wattle and hakea which have been brought in by other people. Those plants love fire and so it is a race for the Department to make sure they don’t take over the place during recovery” said Hughes.
She told Stuff that the fire is expected to burn beneath the peat for another six months and it is likely to take a 10-year restoration plan to bring new life and health into the area.
There have been several flare-ups over the past month where a slight change in weather has created an environment that the fire has found favourable to reignite, whether it was strong winds or hot weather. What has been promising, is the sign of vibrant new life throughout the wetlands beginning to take shape.
Restoration of wetlands and damaged sites is not the only focus, but the restoration of mauri within Kaimaumau itself.
There are a lot of sacred sites in the area such as burial grounds. In particular, there is a site of significance where mass burials took place during the Spanish Flu epidemic in the 1800s.
Shane Jones, former MP and local Te Tai Tokerau historian, told The Herald that Motutangi is the sacred site where the local hapū experienced a pandemic in the 1830s. Many lives were lost at this site and Motutangi is the site where the survivors retreated from.
With new life rearing its head at a positive rate, and a handful of workers still monitoring the fire as it burns underneath the ground, the area will have been restored to its former glory in no time.