Port Hills blaze: The aftermath

  • Updated
  • 18/02/2017

Light drizzle has brought some relief to crews battling the blaze on Christchurch's Port Hills, but it's now a slippery situation.

Dampening down hotspots will be today's focus over the 2000 hectares of land that have gone up in flames after the fire took hold on Monday.

Shift manager Brent Dunn says the hard work is far from over despite Friday's brief rainfall.

"It certainly helped out, it's certainly welcome, but because a lot of the fires are deep-seated what we need is some heavy rain, that'd be a lot better."

More rain is forecast for Saturday but temperatures are set to spike close to 30degC following the weekend.

Several cordons were lifted in the Port Hills area late on Friday night.

Along Cashmere Rd some cordons have been removed but the intersection with Hoon Hay Valley Rd is still closed to the public.

The uphill section of Kennedys Bush Rd is still closed but Dyers Pass Rd is now open.

Safety assessments are being made on when the six remaining cordons around the Port Hills fire can be removed.

Civil Defence is working with 80 people who have registered for access within cordons to collect critical items and to check on animals.

In the meantime police and Defence Force personnel are continuing to patrol the affected areas.

A community meeting is scheduled for Saturday morning for residents in the affected areas.

Christchurch Civil Defence controller Dave Adamson says ground crews worked hard to do risk assessments, including looking at the danger posed by damaged structures, asbestos, and geotechnical hazards caused by the loss of vegetation.

The blaze, which has destroyed 11 homes and ripped through more than 2000 hectares of scrub and forest since Monday, is largely contained.

Re-plant with natives - scientist

An environment expert says the Port Hills in Christchurch should be replanted with flame-resistant native plants.

University of Auckland ecologist professor George Perry says if left to its own devices, highly flammable gorse and grass will thrive.

"What we've seen is that after fire we end up with these weed plants invading. They're highly flammable and they can promote future fire so we end up in this vicious cycle."

Prof Perry says native flame-resistant plants such as five-finger, broadleaf and karamu need to be planted and maintained instead.

Meanwhile as Port Hills residents return to their homes the Canterbury medical officer of health is assuring them the smell of smoke won't affect their health.

'Smoke will go away' 

Families displaced by the fires started being allowed back to their homes on Friday, as welcome drizzle began falling in the city. 

Dr Alistair Humphrey says while their homes may smell, it will pass.

"The smoke they smell will go away, and they might be anxious about it - I've lived after there's been a housefire I know it doesn't smell particularly nice - they need to be reassured that it's not going to cause any problems with their health."

Dr Humphrey says even though there have been measures showing higher levels of particulates in the air, it's only short-term.

Deaf Aotearoa frustrated at lack of sign language translators

Deaf Aotearoa says it's frustrated by the lack of Sign Language translators when police held media briefings during Civil Defence Emergency meetings in Christchurch.

Chief executive Lachlan Keating say there have been opportunities missed to get important messages out to the deaf community.

"We're probably going to make our own videos of translating the English text of the Civil Defence briefings and media releases into New Zealand sign language, but also we want to ensure that we have interpreters alongside the media briefings," he says.