Firefighters dampen out forestry after fire in Nelson this week. Photo: Evan Barnes.

Years of work lost in fire

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The owner of half the forest affected by the Pigeon Valley fire says the company won’t know the full impact of the blaze until it is over.

The fire closed roads, state highways and schools, displaced thousands from their homes and left hundreds of people temporarily out of work across the district.

But the impact is also being felt region wide with loggers, truck drivers and contractors unable to work over the last week.

Further restrictions on machinery and tools that could cause sparks has meant that even more professionals are out of work for an unknown amount of time.

Tasman Pine Forest Ltd owns almost half of the forest within the fire area with their chief operating officer Steve Chandler estimating that the area of their trees affected is somewhere between 800-1000 hectares. He says they haven’t yet been able to quantify the cost impact of the lost trees yet due to the fire not being over.

“Within the containment area not all of the trees are burnt so until we get in there and assess it, we won’t know the cost.”

The company does not have insurance to cover the loss.

“Most larger forest companies don’t insure against fire and wind loss due to the cost, Tasman Pine Forest Ltd is one of these,” says Steve.

He says the age range of the trees range from mature through to trees that were just planted last year.

“We’re going to try and salvage what we can but anything below 18-years-old is very difficult to salvage but we will have to do something with those trees to make way for replanting. We’ve got quite a bit of planning to do.”

He says in Tasman Pine alone anywhere between 60 to 100 workers and contractors have been out of work since Wednesday but across the region there are “many hundreds” of workers affected.

He says as soon as the Civil Defence state of emergency is lifted on Wednesday, their crews should be able to get back to forestry operations.

“The short-term impact shouldn’t be too significant, but it will have some impact in 10-20 years’ time, it’s not a large part of our estate so we are comfortable that we can manage the impact.”

One forestry worker says a high-production crew can harvest up to 250 hectares of land per year, depending on the terrain and tree quality so over the 2300-hectare fire containment area between five- and 10-years’ work could be lost for an entire crew.