The state of local emergency in the Nelson-Tasman region has been extended for another week amid the ongoing bushfires which have destroyed two homes, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.
Ms Ardern has made a prime ministerial statement on the fires to Parliament this afternoon, announcing the extension of the emergency declaration and revealing two houses have been destroyed, while thanking residents, agencies and emergency services for their efforts.
The fires started a week ago today and Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese and Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne declared a state of local emergency the following day, allowing emergency authorities to respond quickly and activate the emergency operation centre, Ms Ardern noted.
"The fire has covered over 2300 hectares, destroying forest and agricultural land, impacting stock and leading to the evacuation of 2500 people," she said.
"While the fire has destroyed two homes and caused widespread damage, I do want to acknowledge that loss, but also thank those involved in the response. Their action has saved homes, stopped the spread of the fire and protected the lives of those living in the area," Ms Ardern said.
"We're advised that the fire is currently being held in control lines and the weather forecast is for favourable conditions. That is encouraging but we remain cautious, with a large number of hotspots throughout the fire zone that could become active should there be a change in the wind.
"Emergency authorities are doing everything they can to get people back into their homes and farms as soon as is safe to do so," she said.
"The declaration of the state of local emergency will now be extended for a further week to allow authorities to continue to control the fire and deal with the current situation, and if conditions change and if the fire risk increases," the PM added. "I know you will join with me in expressing that our thoughts are with all those people impacted by this emergency.
"On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank the local residents for their continued patience and the community spirit that they have displayed."
Ms Ardern pointed out that since the fire started more than 1000 properties have been evacuated and said it was "incredibly encouraging" to see Wakefield residents return home yesterday.
Emergency authorities are today assessing when the remaining 228 households will be allowed to return, she said.
"To the people of Nelson-Tasman, we want to reassure you the Government is making available the necessary resources to the agencies working to gain control of these fires and to preserve life and property," Ms Ardern said
"Recovery planning is already underway to get the area and the community back on their feet as soon as possible," she said.
The Prime Minister said the Government has now committed a contribution of $70,000 to the Tasman District Council Mayoral Relief Fund and to providing $50,000 to the Rural Support Trust and primary industry groups to help speed up the recovery of farming and horticultural businesses.
"I do want to highlight this funding is only intended to plug gaps that are not already covered by other Government funding," Ms Ardern said.