Disaster evacuation plan main reason no lives lost

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The huge wildfire that caused widespread devastation to the Lake Ohau Village was one of the worst such disasters in New Zealand for many years.

The scale of property loss is similar to that seen overseas, not here in our country.

This event being in the Waitaki district brings the disaster closer to home for us. Our sincere thoughts are with all affected by the fire, especially those who lost their homes.

Grateful thanks are extended to all the firefighters and other support staff who brought the blaze under control, and provided support to the village residents.

Well done to the Lake Ohau Village residents on having a disaster evacuation plan in place – this was the main reason why no lives were lost.

Mayor Gary Kircher has opened a mayoral relief fund (Ohau Relief -Ref Ohau – 02-0940-0156400-000). All donations large or small to this fund will help to provide relief to the residents adversely affected by the disastrous fire.

The Lake Ohau area is well known to many locals, including those who visit the Lake Ohau Lodge, ski at the snowfields, or walk and tramp in the Ohau forest. This is a lovely part of the Waitaki district to visit and, when open again to the public, I encourage anyone who has not been there to visit and support all in the area.

Other matters the council is working on are the district plan review, the long-term plan and the harbour plan. These all require a large amount of time from both councillors and council staff and, when drafts are prepared, will all be put out for public consultation.

Councillors wish to both inform residents as to the inclusions in each plan, and to receive feedback on what you like, or do not like. Advice will be provided when draft plans have been released for comment, and I encourage all interested persons to make a submission to advise their views.

Submissions were recently made by residents on the harbour plan. There were a large range of items submitted on, providing valuable information to council.

The two most popular items were the proposal to close part of Lower Thames St, and whether or not to restore Sumpter Wharf. I counted 37 submissions against the Lower Thames St proposal, with only two in favour.

Councillors have since received emails from several business owners in that area, all objecting to the proposal.

Regarding Sumpter Wharf, there were 24 submissions in favour of either full or partial restoration, with nine submissions against. However, some of the submissions in favour wanted the wharf to be for public use, to only be partially restored, and not to be solely for the seabirds to inhabit. Opinion was not as clear-cut in this matter.

Further information on the harbour plan, and the other two plans, will be released when available.

I encourage members of the public to continue their interest in these, and hope that the level of public submissions will continue.

Well done to all who took the time to make a submission, your effort was appreciated.