Port Hills recovery will take 'decades'

5:45 am on 6 March 2017

It will take decades for 2000 hectares of fire-damaged land on Christchurch's Port Hills to recover, an ecology expert says.

Port Hills fire damage: Ohinetahi Bush Reserve

Port Hills fire damage: Ohinetahi Bush Reserve. Photo: Supplied

The Port Hills Fire which broke out on 13 February and burned uncontrolled for more than a week. About 90 percent of the land affected by the blaze was privately owned, including several reserves, voluntary covenants and farmland.

University of Canterbury ecology professor David Norton said local conservation groups would need to do a huge amount of replanting and seeding to restore the land.

Professor Norton said it would take about three or four decades for native bush to recover.

"If we do it in a considered way, we plan it properly and invest the resources to do it, I think we could have a good native regenerating cover back in thirty to forty years...maybe even a little bit less than that," he said.

Ecology expert David Norton.

University of Canterbury ecology professor David Norton says it will take three or four decades for the native bush to recover. Photo: Supplied

"Given that a tōtara tree that's living up there that might've survived all of the fires could be 400 years old, 20-30 years isn't too bad a timeframe."

The Summit Road Society owns and manages the Ohinetahi Bush Reserve, an area of 150 hectares on the Port Hills, which stretches from above Governors Bay to Allandale.

Board member Tony Edney said he watched as the fire burned through more than half of the reserve which the society has re-planted since 1992.

"It's not great seeing all of that work go up in smoke."

Port Hills fire damage:Ohinetahi Bush Reserve

The remains of the Ohinetahi Bush Reserve after the Port Hills fire. Photo: Supplied

Professor Norton said birds, geckos and other reptiles will have died or and lost habitat in the blaze.

"If we have lost 500 or 600 hectares of native forest, then that's 500 to 600 hectares of fruit, of nectar, of food resources,

"All the small birds, the fantails the grey warblers, they wouldn't have got out [of the fire] they will have gone... so all that habitat is gone."

Conservation groups have started to look at what can be done to restore the scorched land and a Port Hills Fire Restoration fund has been set up to receive donations.

The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust is managing the fund.

Trust chairman Mark Christensen said it would take a big picture approach.

"We'll be going through a process to work with all of the agencies, the landowners and a number of others to work out what is the best way that we can most effectively do this in a strategic way.

"It'll be a long process," he said.

Mr Christensen said it was unclear how much the restoration would cost.

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