New Zealanders urged to prepare for summer bush fires

There's concern Kiwis are reluctant to prepare for the possibility of bush fires this summer.

It comes after an independent review into February's Tasman Fires uncovered that many locals believe it was a 'once-in-a-lifetime event'. 

But Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) says that's just not the case. 

"These aren't one-offs, this will happen again and what we need to do is actually make sure we're prepared when it does happen again," says FENZ national commander Kerry Gregory.

The fires cost FENZ $13 million to fight and put a major strain on national resources. 

"We deployed 23 helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft, 23 heavy machines and more than 150 firefighters," says FENZ deputy chief executive Raewyn Bleakley.

An independent operation review out today backed how FENZ handled the fires but called for a ban on activity-producing sparks during heightened fire risk and a 24-hour total fire ban for entire communities based on the afternoon forecast.

At the height of the fire, the flames were only a few thousand metres away from the town of Wakefield.  

That led to the evacuation of around 3000 residents - some of whom were unhappy with the level of communication from authorities. 

That wasn't part of the report, but Four Square owner Phil Bell had to abandon all of his stock.

"[It was] hard to get a hold of anybody that could allow us to get in - we did have trucks that were waiting to get in." 

Nelson's Civil Defence controller Roger Ball says it could have been better.

"Something that we know we didn't do well enough was communicate with people of all levels in the most efficient and timely manner,' he says.

Ball says better communication will be included in a Civil Defence review to be released before Christmas.