The Lake Ohau Village cordon, manned (and womaned) by Waitaki District Council staff for the last 6 weeks, has been officially lifted.
The Ohau fire resulted in the most homes being destroyed by fire in New Zealand's history. Six weeks after FENZ handed over the site to Waitaki's Recovery Manager Lichelle Guyan, the village is nearly cleared and ready for rebuilding and renewal.
After FENZ put the fire out, it was the beginning of what's known as the Transition Period. The purpose of transition is to aid recovery by providing powers to manage, co-ordinate, or direct recovery activities. As the site was considered dangerous, security was set up and the village road closed to all but essential workers and residents by appointment. Services were reconnected, contractors started demolition, water connections were re-established and debris cleared.
Waitaki staff who worked the cordon say the highlights were getting to know the wonderful residents of Ohau and the fantastic contractors who were working there. Contractors who showed constant respect for the residents, worked hard - the results of this hard work being ever-evident now and a credit to each one of them. Everyone involved appreciated having the chance to appreciate the beauty of Ohau and the time to breathe in the beauty of life in a small village, even in the wake of disaster.
What have we learnt? A member of the cordon staff said, "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.
Generosity. Despite their losses, they are an ever-generous community. Fresh muffins and scones were delivered on several occasions. Jackets and soup provided in the cold.
"We learnt that we need to be grateful. And kind to one another."
Recovery Manager Lichelle Guyan said 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.
Also, about the importance of understanding your insurance cover and the actual cost of rebuilding your home. Home owners may be surprised or not considered the cost of demolition and consents to rebuild. This all comes out of the sum of your insurance. She praised the residents for their patience and understanding during an extremely difficult time in their lives.
Mayor for Waitaki Gary Kircher said, "I've appreciated the opportunity to get to know our Ohau 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 cordon has been removed to allow access to the village area and the transition period was terminated 19 November 2020.