As insurers tally the costs of the damage wrought by the Tasman fires, some MPs are warning that a changing climate may lead to extended fire seasons in the coming years.
The recent fires in the Tasman district were among the largest in decades, ripping across 2,300 hectares and displacing around 3,000 people. Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour List MP based in Maungakiekie, praised the firefighters who fought to control the fire in what became the largest aerial firefight on record.
“These are men and women who are passionate about the important work they do,” Radhakrishnan told Stuff.co.nz. “They literally save lives and many of them do it voluntarily – about 85% of FENZ [Fire and Emergency New Zealand] is made up of volunteer firefighters.”
However, Radhakrishnan tinged her praise with a warning: “The bad news is that such wildfires are likely to become more common.”
“Crown Research Institute SCION has been studying climate change and its impact on fire risk,” said Radhakrishnan. “According to their research, drier conditions expected with climate change are likely to lead to a greater risk of longer fire seasons and large wildfires. Hotter, drier conditions increase fire risk. Wet, warm winters increase the intensity of fires.”
On the other side of the aisle, Stuart Smith, National MP for Kaikoura, told Stuff that, while he acknowledged the “incredible effort everyone involved in fighting the Tasman fires has put in,” there is still room for improvement. “As with most unprecedented disasters, there are issues that could be improved on, but before any comments can be made on these, there has to be thorough debrief of all those involved in the response,” said Smith.
“Overall, I consider the response to this fire, which will go on for some time as firefighters continue the difficult task of seeking out hotspots, has been timely and well-managed.”