19 Nov 2020

Lake Ōhau cordons lifted after devastating October fire

5:53 pm on 19 November 2020

The cordon around Lake Ōhau village has been officially lifted just over a month and a half after the devastating blaze that damaged or destroyed 48 properties.

A house burnt to the ground in Lake Ohau village.

A house that was burnt to the ground at Lake Ōhau village. Photo: RNZ / Anan Zaki

It was the most homes destroyed by a fire in the country's history.

Waitaki District Council staff have stood down from the cordon, six weeks after taking over from Fire and Emergency.

The village road was closed to all but essential workers and residents by appointment as contractors started demolition, services were reconnected and debris was cleared.

One member of the cordon staff said people could learn from the fire and how the community took care of each other.

"How important it is to know, respect and look out for your neighbours. This community has taught us so much about supporting each other, having respect for your fellows and the environment, and taking pride in where you live.

"We learnt that we need to be grateful. And kind to one another."

The community remained generous even after their loss. The council said fresh muffins and scones were delivered on several occasions while jackets and soup were provided in the cold.

Recovery manager Lichelle Guyan said the village was nearly cleared and ready for rebuilding and renewal.

Waitaki District Council recovery manager Lichelle Guyan

Recovery manager Lichelle Guyan advises people to always be prepared for emergencies. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

"The fire had taught a valuable lesson 'Be prepared'. Those annual evacuation drills saved so much. We need to stop and think about our preparedness as individuals, neighbourhoods, communities."

She urged people to look into their insurance cover and the actual cost of rebuilding their home, including demolition and consents to rebuild.

Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher said he had appreciated getting to know the Ōhau community better.

"Together we have faced challenges and heartbreak, and that isn't completely over yet. But this move to the next stage is a positive sign and I look forward to helping where possible as the community gets back to relative normality, and can once again enjoy their special piece of paradise."

The transition period that gave the council powers to close the road ended today.

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