TODAY |

Campaign aims to remind Kiwis about the danger to wildlife from wildfires

Thousands of hectares of bird habitat was destroyed by fire last summer.

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Nearly 5000 hectares of habitat was destroyed by fire which started from camp fires last year. Source: 1 NEWS

That's one of the messages Fire and Emergency New Zealand want the public to know ahead of peak fire season as the agency ramps up its prevention focus with a campaign centred on native birds.

"One of the things that's often missed is the effect in our environment and the habitats of our native birds and other wildlife," FENZ national commander Kerry Gregory said.

The campaign images show computer-generated kiwi, tui and pīwakawaka, or fantail, with 'highly flammable' yellow tags hanging from their beaks.

Mr Gregory said it's hoped the birds will draw an emotional reaction from the public, landowners, tourists and heavy machinery operators, and be remembered when they're lighting campfires, operating equipment or mowing the lawn.

The Tasman fires which burned through more than 2300 hectares in February this year started from a spark from heavy machinery.

"I think it will be hard hitting for some people in some parts of the campaign but the message is really strong," Mr Gregory said.

"What we're seeing as climate change happens is we all need to be more and more aware about things that start wildfires," Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said.

The Department of Conservation's acting threatened species ambassador Erica Wilkinson says it's not practical to hold a national record on wildlife affected by fires, but says the agency views the risk from fire as significant and increasing due to climate change.

"In February this year, up in Northland, there was a bush fire and kiwi were sadly caught and we had reports form the public saying that they could hear the kiwis screaming, which is incredibly harrowing," she said.

"We also nearly lost an entire species to a fire back in 2007... the Canterbury knobbled weevil... the only place it's been found, it's been decimated by fire through its speargrass and now there are only 200 left and it's a nationally critical species."

Ms Wilkinson said the impact from fire on a species and its home is wide-ranging.

"Any species that have survived the fire are on the ground, there's no more ground cover, they can't get into their burrows, they can't get into their tree cavities, they're really vulnerable to predators at that time."

The wildfire prevention campaign will appear on ferries, in campgrounds and on regional flights through to April next year.