Community grant helps fund wildfire protection at Lake Clearwater

Published: 17 April 2024

A community grant from the Ashburton District Council has helped pay for the installation of a sprinkler system fire break to protect the community at Lake Clearwater and the Hakatere Conservation Park.

The system was officially commissioned this week. Water from the sprinklers helps maintain a 300m long and 15m wide grass fire break on the western side of the settlement.

It is designed to create a green fire break that will provide greater protection to the huts in the event of a wildfire driven by north-west winds, and it will also protect the public conservation land adjacent to the village from a fire starting within the village.

A Lake Clearwater Community Emergency Plan involving Council, the Lake Clearwater Hutholders’ Association, the Department of Conservation and Fire and Emergency New Zealand had identified a number of risks in the event of a significant wildfire; one mitigation was fire breaks.

Lake Clearwater has about 168 baches and a camping ground, though the settlement population can reach around 3000 during summer, including campers around the Lake Camp shoreline.

Don Geddes, Fire and Emergency Senior Advisor Risk Reduction for Mid-South Canterbury, says the influx of visitors to the area during the summer months created heightened levels of fire hazard.

This means more people are carrying out spark and heat generating activities, like off-road 4x4 driving, motorcycle riding and cooking outside. Many visitors are also not aware of fire danger risks.

“The community decided a sprinkler system was the preferred option for a fire break as it has no impact on the environment and requires little maintenance,” Mr Geddes said.

“This has been a long process and wouldn’t have been possible without the community, Department of Conservation, Ashburton District Council and Fire and Emergency, especially our crew doing the groundwork, particularly Greg Brake, rural controller at Lake Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade,” Mr Geddes said.

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