7 Feb 2019

Nelson fire: Government confirms support

12:33 pm on 7 February 2019

The government has confirmed initial support for the Tasman community for people affected by the fires.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and two of her ministers are in Nelson this morning, travelling to the Emergency Co-ordination Centre where Tasman District Council and Civil Defence are leading operations.

Ms Ardern said seeing the fire up close was confronting.

"While I'm immensely relieved there's been no loss of life and want to thank all of those involved in tackling this immense fire, it's clear there are going to be some difficult times ahead until we get the fire fully under control and people back to their homes.

"I can only imagine how difficult it is to pack up what you can and to evacuate so I want to acknowledge the families who have had to do that - and I want to let you know we are here to understand how we can help in the days and weeks ahead."

She said seeing it from the air gave a sense of the scale of it.

"Flying in you can see the true scale of it, it is a significant fire ... it is large, it is incredibly dry. All very difficult conditions but they are doing an incredible job."

She said the terrain and steepness was adding to the difficulty for firefighters who were doing a fantastic job.

"It is dry as a bone, the rainfall compared to even last year has been low. The mayor described to me they've had only shallow rainfall conditions since October.

"I feel absolutely sure that everything that can be done is being done.

Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern speaks to evacuees ahead of the press conference.

Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern speaks to evacuees ahead of the press conference. Photo: RNZ

"There is extraordinary understanding, there's individuals who have been evacuated as early as Tuesday ... the fact that there has been changes in the wind, that there are fires burning underground, it it still a very volatile situation."

She said the focus now was on containment and management.

The government confirmed an initial commitment of $20,000 to the Mayoral Relief Fund, which had been set up by Tasman District Council.

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi said affected local authorities had significant discretion around how they choose to set up and administer the fund, and around the establishment of disbursement criteria.

"Mayoral Relief Funds provide an additional way to help communities get back on their feet after an emergency. Local communities and councils are best-placed to know exactly what they need so this funding can be used, for example, to meet the needs of affected families and individuals, community organisations or marae."

The funds are in addition to other support that may be available from the Ministry of Social Development, Housing New Zealand and Ministry for Primary Industries.

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