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Relief for Wakefield residents as they return home this evening

That wraps up our live coverage of the Tasman fire today. If there are any more developments we'll bring them to you.

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    About 1000 houses were evacuated over the past week, forcing about 3000 to flee. Source: 1 NEWS

    (Note: This was the second article of our live coverage today, for the initial article click here.)

    What you need to know:

    • Wakefield residents can return to their homes, the Prime Minister has announced.
    • A large fire that started near Nelson on Tuesday afternoon has destroyed at least one home and resulted in thousands of evacuations.
    • The fire was declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and the status has remained.
    • A makeshift animal shelter has been set up for pets at the Richmond A&P grounds.
    • Evacuees are asked to register at the Civil Defence Centre at Saxton Stadium in Stoke, or phone 03 543 8400.
    • If you are in the fire area, you can email or send us photos to news@tvnz.co.nz.

    7.00pm - 1 NEWS reporter Kim Baker-Wilson also got an understanding of the huge effort that has gone into helping the firefighters and evacuees, his 6pm story is below.

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      Temporary classrooms, local marae and cafes are all chipping in. Source: 1 NEWS

      6.45pm - There was relief for the residents of Wakefield who were allowed to return to their homes this afternoon, 1 NEWS reporter Kaitlin Ruddock spoke to them. Her story from the 6pm bulletin is above.

      5.22pm - The Ministry of Social Development have also put out this release regarding the government helpline for people affected by the fires. Full release below: 

      Anyone affected by the Nelson/Tasman fires can now call the Government Helpline 0800 779 997.

      The MSD-run helpline is available from 7am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.

      Kay Read, Group General Manager Client Service Delivery, says people affected by the fires don’t have to be on a benefit to get help from MSD.

      "We’re here to offer support to anyone who’s finding it hard to meet urgent costs. These may include accommodation, food, bedding, clothing and transport.

      "You can call 0800 779 997 if you’ve been affected by the Nelson/Tasman fires and would like help, are struggling to support yourself or your family, or you’d like more information about how we might be able to help you.

      "If you’re experiencing hardship as a result of the fires, we’re here to help you and we want to hear from you on 0800 779 997."

      For more information on fires-related support available from MSD, check the Work and Income website or MSD’s Facebook and Twitter.

      For general enquiries that aren’t related to the Nelson/Tasman fires, please call the Contact Centre on 0800 559 009.

      5.15pm – Nelson Tasman Civil Defence issued this statement regarding Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival celebrations.

      The State of emergency on fire remains, and we urge our community to respect the existing ban on fire when celebrating lunar new year, Lantern Festival.

      The current form requires a total ban on fire, banning the use of agricultural equipment and any machinery and equipment that may cause spark. In The Lantern Festival day, we ask everyone not to open fire lanterns at home to ensure everyone's safety. 

      The state of emergency regarding the fires remains, and we urge our community to respect the current bans in place when celebrating Chinese New Year.

      There is a complete fire ban, and also a ban on using agricultural equipment and anything that may cause a spark. We’d ask people NOT to light lanterns at home, to ensure the safety of everyone.

      4.42pm - Fire controller Trevor Mitchell told the media "we haven’t got a containment of the fire at all at the moment" but it is safe enough for the Wakefield residents to return home.

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        The Prime Minister called it a significant milestone in the response to the Tasman fire.

        4.31pm - Police have been able to get in position in Wakefield earlier than expected so residents will be able to return immediately, Civil Defence controller Roger Ball told media.

        4.25pm - Nelson mayor Rachel Reece urged people to keep connecting with their neighbours and make sure people are okay.

        "The entire community is on tenterhooks," she told a media briefing.

        "The planning has been done very very well, to the people of Wakefield, the teams here are confident about you going back into your community tonight," she said.

        "I know there will be a lot of sleepless nights," she told the briefing.

        Damien O'Connor said he hoped a corner had been turned, but nothing is known for sure.

        "We hope we can maintain the zero injury status we have... people need to be as careful going back into their homes as they were getting out," he said.

        "There's still a long way ahead of us to get back to full recovery... but the return to Wakefield is still subject to evacuation should that fire stand again."

        4.16pm - Civil Defence have also put out the following statement after the announcement at 4pm: 

        “The decision takes effect immediately, thanks to the efforts of Police, who have been able to get their staff into position earlier than expected. This will help reduce congestion,” Civil Defence Incident Controller Roger Ball said.

        “I must emphasise that returning residents must be prepared to evacuate if conditions change. The signals to evacuate will be an emergency mobile alert message sent to cellphones and the continuous sounding of the Wakefield fire siren.”

        There will continue to be a heavy police presence throughout Wakefield monitoring the return and ensuring the supporting of any properties that remain vacant.

        This immediate return is for residents only. Therefore please ensure you are able to demonstrate you are a returning resident if you are asked for proof.

        People who are not residents may go into Wakefield after 7am tomorrow. The escorted convoys through Wakefield on SH6 will cease at 4pm and SH6 will be available for normal traffic from that time. Please note that unless you are a resident, you will not be able to stop in Wakefield until 7am tomorrow.

        “We anticipate that there will be congestion on Wakefield streets for the next few hours so the speed limits are being reduced to ensure everyone’s safety on the roads. Until 7am the current 70km zone will be reduced to 50km and the 50km areas will have a 30km speed limit.”

        Mr Ball said agencies involved in the fire response were still actively planning for Valley residents to be able to return home. 

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          There’s a chance some residents evacuated from their homes may soon be allowed to return. Source: 1 NEWS

          4.14pm - Government adding $50,000 to the $20,000 already allocated - taking the total contribution to Mayoral Relief Fund to $70,000. PM says that doesn’t include contributions from Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Primary Industries.

          4.12pm - Police acting area commander Zane Hooper said police were asking for patience from people during what is expected to be congestion on the road.

          Police say they may stop people and ask them why they are in the area, and people who do not live in Wakefield should not be there.

          Acting area commander Zane Hooper said people will still need to evacuate at a moment's notice, and vulnerable people should not return.

          The local fire station will sound a continuous siren, along with fire and police vehicles, if evacuation is needed.

          Zane Hooper said people should being an immediate and orderly evacuation if those sirens are heard.

          4.10pm - Civil Defence Incident Controller Roger Ball says the immediate return is for residents in Wakefield only, and that there is still risk and people returning need to be prepared in case they have to go again.

          People who are not residents will have to wait until 0700am tomorrow to get back into the area.

          "We anticipate there will be a little big of congestion on Wakefield streets in the next few hours," Mr Ball told a media briefing.

          Speed limits on the road are being reduced.

          Planning is still underway for residents in the valleys to return home, Civil Defence says it will not be able to happen today because the situation in those places is more complex.

          4.05pm - The Prime Minister called it a significant milestone in the response to the Tasman fire.

          4.03pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Wakefield residents will be allowed to return to their homes at 5pm. 

          3.25pm - The pilot of the Hercules pilot told 1 NEWS he just dropped off 50 police and taking about the same number out. He says there's been a lot of flying personnel around in the last few days. 

          3.20pm - This aerial footage shows the extent of the damage that the fire has caused.

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            After burning for several days, the blaze has damaged over 2000 hectares of land. Source: 1 NEWS

            3.18pm - There will be a media briefing to provide an update on the Pigeon Valley Fires at 4pm. We'll bring that to you live.

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              Local fire boss Ian Reade says there are still a lot of areas outside the perimeter of the Tasman fire that are available to burn. Source: 1 NEWS

              3.05pm – Local fire boss Ian Reade has told 1 NEWS to not be deceived by the fire looking less intense, saying “there’s still a lot of areas inside the outside perimeter that are available to burn and probably will burn, some of them we might have to burn to reduce the risk”. 

              He says people need to remain vigilant, saying “if you’re doing any things in the outdoors likely to generate a spark, please don’t do it.”

              2.55pm - The Nelson City Council have issued a statement reminding residents to stay out of closed reserves. Full statement is below:

              Nelson City Council landscape and conservation reserves are still closed. This includes popular spots like the Grampians, Codgers MTB Park, Centre of NZ and the Dun Mountain Trail.

              Sports fields, including the Botanics’ playing fields. neighbourhood parks, public gardens and playgrounds remain open.

              The key risk is around the safety of people being caught should a fire break out. These measures reduce the risk of needing to divert resources away from the current fire emergency in Tasman.

              With the extremely dry conditions, prevailing winds, slope and nature of the vegetation, a fire would spread uphill extremely quickly, making evacuation very difficult.

              The following tracks and reserves remain closed to the public:

              Maitai Water Reserve, Roding Water Reserve, Marsden Valley Reserve, Venner Reserve, Brook Conservation Reserve including Eureka Park, Titoki Reserve, Grampians Reserve, Tantragee Reserve, including all of Codgers Mountain Bike Area, Botanical Hill, including all tracks to the Centre of New Zealand, Atmore Reserve, Hanby Park, Highview Reserve, Pipers Reserve, Sir Stanley Whitehead Park, Tasman Heights Reserve, Bolwell Reserve, Stoke Reservoir Reserve (behind the Nelson Christian College), The Dun Mountain Trail, Maitai Walkway from Gibbs Bridge (near to Sunday Hole) through to the Maitai Water Reserve

              2.42pm - Speaking of the NZDF, 1 NEWS got a look inside its base of operations as they assist in the firefighting effort. You can watch that video below.

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                Second Lieutenant Cameron O’Sullivan is one of many bringing relief to the region. Source: 1 NEWS

                2.35pm - Another NZRAF Hercules has just arrived at Nelson Airport to assist in the firefighting effort, per 1 NEWS sources.

                2.27pm - Wakefield School has a temporary new home at a local church, giving the local children some much-needed normality. Watch a video on the story below.

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                  Principal Peter Verstappen says holding school at church has brought a touch of normality to the kids. Source: 1 NEWS

                  1.57pm - Tasman Civil Defence have released the following information in a statement:

                  Helicopters are today targeting firefighting efforts on the southeast boundary of Wakefield.

                  A decision on whether to allow Wakefield residents to return to their properties will be made at 4pm.

                  Incident Controller Roger Ball said a final decision would be based on the fire behaviour, the weather, the ability of the emergency services to evacuate the town safely and quickly, should conditions change

                  Ground crews made good progress in favourable conditions last night building the containment line and dampening down hot spots. The fire is still around 2,300 hectares with a perimeter of 25km.

                  Heavy machinery will be used throughout the day to establish containment lines, the effort will include around 190 firefighters, 10 helicopters, two fixed-wing planes, 15 heavy machines and 47 incident management staff

                  Wind gusts in the fire area today are expected to stay around 40 km per hour and the forecasts shows it is unlikely there will be any significant rain in the next 14 days.

                  Financial assistance

                  Assistance is available to those affected by the fires, including for costs associated with the event and lost wages. Call 0800 559 009 for more information.

                  Health information

                  Free healthcare is available for those affected by the fires.

                  At any time:

                  Call the freephone Healthline on 0800 611 116

                  Call 111 for emergencies or go to Nelson Hospital ED for emergencies

                  1.43pm - The Tasman District Council has released the following statement:

                  "This week we have a specialist company helping us find water leaks in our council water supplies. Detection Services will have two staff in the Brightwater area this week. They will be listening for leaks and marking up the ground with paint where they find them. Their vehicles have Detection Services written on them and they wear high–vis jackets. They often work at night when it’s quieter and the water use is less.  If your water meter is down a private driveway, they may access it, otherwise they will not be coming onto private property.

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                    Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne made the comments during a press conference about the fire today. Source: 1 NEWS

                    If you see any water leaks on any scheme, please continue to report them to us immediately. The lack of rain has resulted in the ground drying out which has increased leakage in some areas. Leaks are fixed as soon as possible, usually with one or two days. Where there is a backlog of work, the largest leaks ones are prioritised."

                    1.11pm - A Nelson pizza cafe owner says she has no choice but to help those evacuated from the Nelson fire, saying "if you can, you must". You can read and watch more on that story here.

                    12.30pm - SPCA are offering free microchipping to all animals affected by the Tasman fire over the next few days.

                    If evacuees have their animals microchipped, it will help to reunite them with their pets if they go missing, the organisation posted on Facebook.

                    12.25pm - "It's really encouraging to know that we're very close to residents in Wakefield being able to return home," for Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said. 

                    He asked people not from the area to not "go for a look". He asked residents of other areas not returning home to "please be patient".

                    "It's tremendous to get to this stage. We are really looking forward to everybody being able to return home," Mr Kempthorne said. "We know that people really want to go home home, but equally it has to be in safety, in safe conditions."

                    12.20pm - All the hot-spots are still within the control line, about 2km from Wakefield, Fire and Emergency NZ regional manager John Sutton said. But they had been there for three days now.

                    Conditions today are turning out to be as forecast, and no "elevated fire behaviour" is expected, he said.