Nelson fires: One year on from New Zealand's largest wildfire in decades

Wednesday marks one year since New Zealand's largest wildfire in seven decades broke out at Pigeon Valley in Nelson.

It charred more than 2300 hectares of property, pastures and forest.

It was a blaze so big and intense that its effect could be seen throughout the top of the South Island.

Firefighter Ian Reade says there's "not a smoko that goes by" where it isn't discussed.

"We shouldn't get complacent. A big fire like the Pigeon Valley fire can happen again, and most likely will happen again."

An investigation concluded the fire was accidentally ignited from sparks caused by using a plough on a rocky paddock.

The fire burned out of control for days and thousands of residents were evacuated. One home was destroyed, and others narrowly avoided a similar fate.

Helicopter pilot Toby Reid was fighting another fire in Marlborough when concerned residents started calling him.

"It was the perfect storm. There was nothing that was stopping that fire - there was everything lined up for it to be pretty nasty," he says.

The Government gave $70,000 to those affected - but it's time that the local pine forest needs.

"We lost just over 1400 hectares of forest in the fire," Tasman Pine Forest CEO Steve Chandler says.

"It was very concerning to just see it close up, particularly when we know a lot of these fires start from outside our estate and burn into our estate."

But 12 months on, there are some signs of recovery. A total fire ban is now in place, and one year on, progress is being made - though it will be years before the area is back to what it once was.