As it happened: Emergency services battle to control Tasman fire

What you need to know:


  • A prepare to evacuate notice is in force for Wai-Iti residents
  • Pigeon Valley and Wakefield residents have been asked to evacuate
  • The Pigeon Valley fire has now grown to 2100 hectares
  • Schools in Wakefield have closed
  • A welfare centre set up in Wakefield has been moved to the Saxton Stadium in Stoke
  • Two men were hospitalised between Thursday and Friday; both have been discharged
  • A man was arrested for disorderly behaviour during a police operation
  • There are concerns dry weather could make the situation worse

Live updates have now finished.


A media stand-up is expected to be held at 8:30am on Sunday at the Tasman District Council.

Civil Defence and police have again reiterated the prepare to evacuate notice in force for Wai-Iti residents.

"We will come knocking at your door if the situation demands that you leave," said Insp Zane Hooper.

There are 170 houses in the affected zone, with roughly 450 people.


Spark is informing customers who have been evacuated from their homes in Tasman that they are eligible for extra data.

Landline customers are also eligible for free calling on their Spark mobiles for the next seven days.

Spark says 438 customers registered for their Connection Promise programme are entitled to 20GB of free data on their primary Spark mobile.

While a text message to notify them of the free calling or extra data will say there has been a Spark outage, this is a standard notification and shouldn't be taken as indication of damage to the network or property.

Customers who have not registered for Connection Promise can take advantage of the programme by calling Spark.


A new statement from Civil Defence has called for the Wai-Iti area to prepare to evacuate as a precautionary measure.

It warned that people with animals should move these proactively. Large animals can be taken to the Richmond Showgrounds, while pets can go to the welfare centre in Stokes.

Anyone who decides to self-evacuate should register with Civil Defence.

This is a map provided by Civil Defence of the area affected by the prepare to evacuate notice:

As it happened: Emergency services battle to control Tasman fire
Photo credit: Civil Defence


Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said her main message was for locals to continue to listen to the mesages of Fire and Emergency.

She also said that people should reach out to others who may be on their own or may be "really anxious".


Zane Hooper from the police, said that their main message was for residents in south Wai-Iti to prepare to evacuate, as it is the area of most concern.

That notice of prepare to evacuate was issued yesterday. Anyone who wishes to self-evacuate needs to register with Civil Defence.

"It is critically important that people in this area take all precautions now in relation to being able to move if they are asked to by police," he said.

Mr Hooper said if the message is sent out to evacuate, police would go door-to-door.

He said police would have a high presence and there would be no access to Wakefield.

"If you have no business being in that area, don't go there."


The Tasman fire is less than two kilometres away from Wakefield, and at a press conference, Fire spokesperson, John Sutton, said the high winds continue to be a major threat.

"It is one of those timebombs that is sitting if the wind does change," he said.

He said 100 firefighters would continue working overnight to extinguish any hot spots.

Roger Ball, the Nelson-Tasman Civil Defence group controller, said there is no prospect of the declaration of emergency relating to Pigeon Valley being lifted anytime soon.

The New Zealand Defence Force continues to have a major presence, operating convoys to allow traffic through State Highway 6.

Restricted access was provided to residents in the Redwood Valley to return to their home to check on stock and grab some belongings.

Mr Ball said the community meetings held on Saturday morning were "well-attended" and more are planned for on Monday.

The local Wakefield Primary School and some pre-schools would not be opened on Monday.

The Pigeon Valley fire remained active overnight and 200 properties have been evacuated there.

Around 860 properties have been evacuated at Wakefield, while Mr Ball said remaining residents should be prepared to evacuate as a precaution.



Carolyn Press-McKenzie from HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) said their temporary shelter for animals displaced by the fires had become extremely busy in recent days.

"Unfortunately we have got busy, we have over 300 animals in our care now," she said.

Ms Press-McKenzie said there was a variety of animals, including 150 turkeys and chickens, and an assortment of goats and sheep among them.

While everyone was on edge, seeing which way the wind would go, she said she was impressed by the locals' resilience.

"I had a little cry earlier, I think it was a sense of pride and a sense of distress, and seeing what an amazing community this is."

As it happened: Emergency services battle to control Tasman fire
Photo credit: Newshub
As it happened: Emergency services battle to control Tasman fire
Photo credit: Newshub



A Facebook page has been set up as a place for people to thank officials working on the fires.

"This is a centralised space for the people of Nelson and Tasman, and anyone else, who wishes to thank and acknowledge the hard working heroes who have been part of the #NelsonFires operation," a post on the page says.

"All the people involved in fighting the Nelson Fires you are all amazing human beings. The people at Saxton today organising the food donations, and everyone else contributing in some way, stellar performance," one person commented on the post.

1:45pm -


Photos of the fire from the air show the scale of the damage, as black tendrils of scorched earth sneak across farm land.

Black, scorched earth in Tasman.
The fire damage from above. Photo credit: Newshub.

1:15pm -


Civil Defence has announced another media briefing will be taking place at 3:30pm.

Fire activity has increased on Saturday morning, and efforts remain focused on a fire front near Wakefield which is moving slowly downslope.

1:00pm -


The rural post has managed to make its way to evacuees after Kathleen, also known as 'Postie Kath', showed up to a community meeting in her rural delivery van.

"We're keeping [evacuees'] mail at the sorting office, today was just a fluke that I realised there was a meeting on so I've brought everybody's mail down to deliver to them," she told Newshub.

Kathleen said working out routes around the fire was nightmare, but there were plenty of residents at the meeting happy to receive some mail.

Postie Kath.
Postie Kath Photo credit: Newshub.

12:32pm -


A NIWA camera pointed at Walter's Bluff, the scene of another fire on Friday night, has spotted a few flare-ups.

The forecaster said on Twitter it was hoping to set up a livestream pointed at the site soon.

Civil Defence said the fire is under control in an update at 11:20am on Saturday. Three crews and a bulldozer will be working to extinguish the fire throughout the day.



A group of volunteers from Animal Evac NZ is headed into the field to save animals affected by the fire.

Video posted to Facebook shows makeshift shelters and volunteers in hi-vis vests preparing to head out from the Richmond Racecourse.

"We've got a couple of rescue missions all lined up and we're also going be helping the crew here at HUHA who have set up this awesome little animal shelter," a man can be heard saying in the video.

The Ministry for Primary Industries posted images of some chickens it found on Twitter, saying they were very close to the fire.

"Burnt hills all the way around this home and farm, frighteningly close. These thirsty ladies are very happy to get a drink from an MPI Animal Welfare officer," the tweet said.

11:00am -


Resident Sarah Burrell told Newshub her neighbours were emotional after coming very close to losing their property.

"They did lose a sleep-out on their property, but it was so close to their house. I'm actually very shocked, we're actually all very shocked at how close they came to losing everything up there.

"It's very emotional for them, they're very upset as we all have been, but I think out of all of us there's probably two or three families up there that came within metres of losing their home.

"If it wasn't for the work of the firefighters that were there at the time they wouldn't have a house there today."

Ms Burrell said she had evacuated one of her animals to the showgrounds, but her cat is still inside the cordon and she has not seen it for two days.

10:30am -


Civil Defence said fire activity is increasing on Saturday in a 9:45am update.

"Our most significant efforts are currently focused on a fire front near Wakefield which is moving slowly downslope," a spokesperson said.

There are currently 23 helicopters, two fixed-wing planes, one drone team, 150 firefighters, 47 incident management staff and 23 heavy machines fighting the fire.  

Humidity has increased, which is expected to help fight the fire on Saturday. Winds are expected to reach 30km/h during the day, but will increase to 50km/h on Sunday.

10:00am -


Tasman District MP Damien O'Connor has addressed affected residents and said the current priority is keeping people safe.

"No-one has been injured, that is an amazing achievement and that is what we have to try and maintain.

"There's been animal welfare issues and we're doing our very best to ensure that every animal is being cared for, but they can't put individual people at risk."

He also commended those affected by the fire for their calm attitude in the face of disaster.

"To ask people to leave their homes, and get them to do that without jumping up and down is amazing. Thank you to all the people from Wakefield, Redwood Valley, all round all those affected early on.

"We'll get through it."

Meanwhile local Graeme Sutton is begging to be let onto his farm to see his stock.

"If it's good enough for defence and for MPI to go onto the properties and feed our stock you should be taking us with you.

"We are locals, we know where the stock [is], we know what their needs are. If you can go, farmers can come with you."

9:30am -


There have been emotional scenes at the first of two community meetings for Tasman locals affected by a huge wild fire.

Officials have spoken with residents in Richmond, receiving a huge round of applause for their efforts.

Photos from the meetings show scores of locals anxiously awaiting news

9:03am -


Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne has said the main focus of the fire is keeping people safe.

He stressed the situation remains extremely volatile and is expected to remain so for a number of days.

8:54am -


Inspector Zane Hooper, the NZ Police acting district commander has said 40 recruits from Police College have been brought down to help with operations.

By the end of Saturday there will be 110 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) staff supporting the operation.

The closure of SH6 is being reviewed, people should refer to the NZTA or Civil Defence for any updates.

8:50am -


Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) regional manager John Sutton said the fire breached an internal control line on Friday, which is what triggered the evacuations in Wakefield.

FENZ now predicts it could take six hours for the fire to burn to the river flats from where it is.

The fire is less than 10 kilometres from the Wakefield township. Mr Sutton said it would be less than two kilometres from the town if it hits the river flats.

The fire cannot currently be called contained, Mr Sutton said.

Mr Sutton said today will be vital, as if the winds reach 50km/h the fire will be extremely hard to control. He said are predicted to hit 50km/h in the area on Sunday.

8:40am -


Civil Defence controller Robert Ball has spoken to media at Appleby School.

Mr Ball said the Pigeon Valley fire remains a threat to property and life, the state of emergency is not likely to be lifted soon.

Around 2500 people are out of their homes.

Rural residents in Wakefield will be allowed to have managed access to their properties today. 

8:20am -


Over 100 personnel worked through to the night to fight the fire.

Civil defence said in an update at 8:00am there are now fire breaks along the blaze's perimeter. There is still large amounts of unburnt vegetation within the control line.

Officials are expected to speak to media at 8:30am.

7:50am -


The latest Civil Defence update says several roads have been closed to keep people away from the blaze.

Closed roads:

  • State Highway 6 Wakefield to Brightwater
  • Moutere Highway from Redwood Rd to Waimea West Rd intersection.
  • Golden Hill Rd at the Moutere Highway intersection.
  • Eves Valley Rd
  • Teapot Valley Rd
  • Golden Hills Rd at the Challies Rd intersection.
  • Redwood Valley Rd and Redwood Valley Ln
  • Barton Ln
  • Symmonds Rd
  • Arnold Ln
  • Dovedale Rd at Pigeon Valley
  • Bird Ln
  • Franklin Cl
  • Martin Ave
  • The intersection of Gibbs Valley Rd and Church Valley Rd
  • Bird Rd at the corner of Higgins Rd
  • Bridge Valley Rd and Mt Heslington Rd where they intersect Higgins Rd
  • Barton Ln and Higgins Road intersection (blocking  access on to Barton Ln)

7:20am -


New Zealand Defence Force personnel and police officers have patrolled the evacuated areas overnight to prevent unlawful activity.

Police said in a statement residents need to respect cordons and anyone who sees an offence being committed should call 111.

6:40am -


Efforts to fight a huge fire in the Tasman district, which is still growing in size, are on-going.

The fire broke out in Pigeon Valley on Tuesday night, and has grown from a low point of 1600 hectares to covering 2100 hectares as of 8:47pm on Friday night.

More than 1000 people have been evacuated and at least one home is confirmed to have been destroyed.

Eighteen army chefs will arrive in the district on Saturday morning to feed hundreds of emergency service crews.

Two mobile kitchens will be set up in Richmond to serve hot meals to those working to control the 2100 hectare blaze.

An additional 50 Defence Force personnel were sent to help evacuate thousands of Wakefield residents yesterday.      

Two community meetings will be held on Saturday morning for the Wakefield community affected by the blaze.

Fire and emergency, police, Civil Defence and Red Cross will be available to answer questions.

The first will be held at Appleby school at 9am and the second at Hope Community Church at 11am

6:00am -


Tasman farmers are being urged to evacuate livestock before their property becomes a high-risk area.

The Government is providing $50,000 to support farmers and growers affected by the main blaze.

Rural Support Trust's Barbara Stewart says animals can be taken to the Richmond Showgrounds.

"If they are able to transport... poultry, pigs, goats or dogs to the Richmond showgrounds where they can be kept safe in a sheltered place away from all hullaballoo."

The horticulture industry can't evacuate their plants though, and there are growing concerns about what will happen to plants in the region.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman told Newshub water is the biggest issue.

"When there's real water shortages animals can be moved but plants can't be so it really becomes very important to get as much water as possible to the plants so they don't die."

Mr Chapman said it's a reminder of how important water storage is in dry months.