Kaweka Forest Park fires threaten people, wildlife

The fire that destroyed a section of the Mangatutu Hot Springs which are located in the Kaweka Forest Park. PHOTO / Rod Hansen
The fire that destroyed a section of the Mangatutu Hot Springs which are located in the Kaweka Forest Park. PHOTO / Rod Hansen

Three people have been trespassed from the Kaweka Forest Park for illegally lighting fires which threatened both people and native wildlife.

In the first instance, the Department of Conservation trespassed a Te Awanga man from the park after two illegal fires were discovered at the Mangatutu Hot Springs.

The man admitted to lighting one of the fires, but denied lighting the second one which caused considerable damage to the hot pool area.

In the second instance, the department trespassed a man and a woman from the same forest park, after being caught a second time with illegal camp fires.

The couple were first discovered with a camp fire in 2016 by a forestry manager who at the time was also a rural fire officer. He gave them a verbal warning, telling them not to light fires at the site.

The same forest manager came across the couple again last month, this time they were with four other people at the same site, with another camp fire burning.

DoC Hawke's Bay Operations Manager Connie Norgate says the department is extremely concerned about the number of illegal fires at campsites with total fire bans.

"The three main areas where we continue to see fires being lit are at Glenfalls Campsite on the Mohaka River, the Mangatutu Hot Springs and the Kuripapango Campsite, both in the Kawekas," she says.

"A fire lit at Kuripapango not only has the potential to destroy the campsite, but cause serious harm to the neighbouring forest and could well threaten the lives of the many people who use the camp.

"It could also destroy any native flora and fauna the forest park is home to, such as the kiwi, as happened in 2015 when an illegal fire was lit at this site."

People found lighting fires at these and other DoC sites may well be trespassed or even prosecuted and, depending on the seriousness of the matter, could be fined up to $2000 or face up to two months in prison, or both.

Fires are not permitted in national parks and are not permitted in some other conservation areas - check with the local DoC office.

DoC strongly discourages the use of fires in any public conservation area as it is one of the greatest threats to our natural environment.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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