New technology gives Canterbury's Waitakiri Bottle Lake Forest Park best fire protection in New Zealand

One Canterbury forest now has the best fire protection in the country, thanks to WIFI and artificial intelligence (AI).

It's a trial that could be rolled out across New Zealand if it's successful. 

 Waitakiri Bottle Lake Forest Park is a popular recreational spot in Christchurch with 800 hectares of pine trees, native ferns, orchids and shrubs.

"It's a wonderful asset to the city so we want to keep it safe," Christchurch City Council's Michael Healy said.

The recreational spot now has five thermal imaging sensors with AI capability constantly surveying the forest.

"The artificial intelligence that sits over the top helps to work out whether it's the sparks from the brakes on a truck versus what would be the early beginnings of a fire," Spark's Renee Mateparae told Newshub.

It sends real-time data straight back to Fire and Emergency (FENZ).

"Not only does fire and emergency get time and understanding to send resources to the incident but also it helps the community prepare," Fire and Emergency NZ's Wayne Hamilton said.

The trial is the combined efforts of the City Council, FENZ and Spark and was sparked by climate change and its firey fingerprints.

"When we had the devastating Port Hills fires - we started thinking surely there's a way we can utilise technology to give us the early stages of a fire so we can put it out quicker," Healy said.

It also sends environmental monitoring, live micro-climate weather updates and air quality sensors and anyone can have the app.

"This means they can jump onto the app if they're thinking about coming into the park and see what's the wind doing? is it raining? what's the pollen count? Is it going to agitate my allergies"? Mateparae said.

If this proves successful, other councils could look at taking it up.

"With climate change and extreme weather events, this is going to be an issue more and more for a lot of parts of New Zealand -especially for the east coast of the South Island," Healy said

Hamilton said people are already showing an interest in how the technology works.

"Already across NZ, there are other areas watching with interest to see how this can work."

Hopefully, it better protects this country's forests from a very real and growing threat.