Waitaki fire emergency updates


Ohau Fire Recovery information

​The Waitaki Emergency Operations Centre is working with partner agencies to assist those affected by fire at Lake Ohau in October 2020. For more information contact Waitaki Emergency Operations welfare staff on 027 213 1508.

Please go to our Ohau Fire Recovery page​ to find information for Residents and Ratepayers affected by the fire.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Updates on the Ohau and Livingstone fires  

For updates on fires in Canterbury and Otago, ​check the Fire and Emergency NZ Canterbury Facebook page​ and the ​Fire and Emergency Otago Facebook page​.​

UPDATE​​​ 1​​5/10/2020: 

Please stick to the trail and avoid closed areas. Obviously, the area surrounding the trail has been burnt and will have associated ash and other debris. Waterways will have been affected by the fire and cyclists are advised to carry plenty of water and not to drink from the streams.​​​

UPDATE 2.30PM Monday Oct 12 2020


As of 12pm midday today 12 October 2020 Fire and Emergency NZ handed over the Lake Ohau Village to Waitaki District Council Civil Defence for recovery, and will be overseeing the village from now on.  There will be people patrolling the wider fire ground for the next few days to ensure there are no flare ups.  We had the privilege of having Justin Tipa from Te Runanga O Moeraki join us to perform a Karakia (blessing) to clear the land and make it safe for the community to come back and restart their journey to recovery.  Again a massive thanks to the wider Community and everyone who has helped us out over the course of this incident.  Please remember if you see any smoke dial 111 immediately.​

UPDATE 9am Oct 8 2020


Crews are back out on the fire ground at Lake Ohau this morning. 

Updated mapping shows the fire has burnt through 5032ha, with a perimeter of 53km. 

The drone team identified several hotspots around the village overnight which fire crews put out. 

Crews will be back in the village today and will continue to work to make it safe. 

A forecast high of 10 degrees and overnight rain have made some of the tracks around the fire ground a bit challenging for firefighters. ​

UPDATE 5.45pm Oct 7 2020


Fire crews have made good progress today. As of this evening 91% of the perimeter is controlled to 50m (meaning no hot spots within 50m) and the remaining 9% controlled to 10m (meaning no hot spots within 10m).

Two crews will be on scene to monitor overnight. Drones will also fly over the area tonight to map for any hot spots.

Tomorrow crews will return to the fire ground and continue to secure the fire perimeter, identify potential hazards and manage any hot spots.

We will also continue work with Waitaki District Council to arrange managed access for residents.

Waitaki District Council is progressing with assessments of critical infrastructure - water supply, sewerage and roads.

UPDATE 2.30pm Oct 7 2020

FENZ UPDATE 1430: Fire at Lake Ohau

Firefighting conditions have been better for crews today allowing for good progress.

There are around 50 personnel, including 17 crews and fire observers, on the ground, as well as diggers and a bulldozer.

They are continuing work to secure the perimeter, assess dangerous trees and manage hot spots.

Aircraft are not flying today but are on standby if needed.

Today there were more than 30 residents who have been allowed managed access to their properties - double than went in yesterday. We have worked with a small group of the affected people to enable them to return to their property that is away from the village area today.​

UPDATE 11.10am Oct 7 2020​

The Waitaki District Council is focussed on providing support to the residents and property owners who have been affected by the Lake Ohau Alpine Village fire.

Controller Murray Linwood says we are working closely with Fire and Emergency NZ as they make the Lake Ohau Alpine Village area safe for re-entry. In the meantime, Fire and Emergency NZ has provided managed access for residents whose property is undamaged so they can retrieve essential items.

We rely on the advice of FENZ about when the village will be safe for more general access. There are numerous hazards in any area that has been affected by a fire. These include hotspots that could reignite in strong winds, to loose iron, to toxic materials such as asbestos and chemicals, and trees damaged by the fire that could fall without warning.

We are also working with the Insurance Council to coordinate the insurance issues relating to the fire. From today, insurance assessors will be able to access the area. This is an important step for property owners who have suffered loss.

Some residents with properties outside the immediate area of Lake Ohau Alpine Village will have access to their properties in the next few days once it is deemed safe to do so.

Chorus, Network Waitaki and Council staff have begun assessing the damage to critical infrastructure. Civil Defence is working on a co-ordinated approach to clean-up.

A civil defence welfare centre has been open since Sunday morning at the Twizel Events Centre in Market Place. Our staff and volunteers are there from 8am to 5pm daily to help meet immediate needs and we continue to hold a daily briefing for residents at 12pm where they can hear directly from Fire and Emergency NZ and Waitaki District Council Civil Defence.

Many people have asked how they can help the survivors of the fire. Mayor Gary Kircher has established a Mayoral Relief Fund to provide support to impacted residents. Ohau Relief – Ref. Ohau - Bank Account –  02 0940 0156400 000. The Government has announced an initial contribution of $100,000.


UPDATE 9am Oct 7 2020

FENZ UPDATE 0900: Fire at Lake Ohau

There has been little fire activity overnight. The weather and ground conditions are good today to continue our fire fighting efforts. 

Ground crews and heavy machinery will be working to manage hot spots, further secure and control the fire perimeter. 

We will continue working with Waitaki Council to allow managed access for residents who have yet to have this. Please register by emailing admin@waitaki.org if you have not already made initial contact.​

UPDATE 6.30pm Oct 6 2020

FENZ UPDATE 6.30PM: Fire at Lake Ohau

Around 15 people (including two fire crews) will be on scene to monitor the fire overnight.

We are expecting better firefighting conditions and less wind this evening.

Drones will be operating tonight to map hot spots and critical areas for fire crews to focus on tomorrow.

Many residents whose properties were undamaged in the fire were able to return briefly today to collect essential items.

The managed access was provided by Fire and Emergency personnel, working with the Waitaki welfare team to prioritise those with the most urgent needs.​

UPDATE 6.27pm Oct 7 2020


This fire has now been contained and we are in a monitoring phase with no visible signs of fire.  We will have crews patrolling the fire ground over the next few days and will re-evaluate next week.  If anyone sees smoke please ring 111 immediately.  Again we thank all our Volunteers, Career Staff and partners like DOC, Forestry Companies and Contractors.  Also a big thanks to the public for your patience and understanding.

UPDATE 6pm Oct 6 2020


The fire has burnt through more than 5500ha since it started on Sunday.

Around 100 firefighters have been on the ground today, working on the large scrub fire at Lake Ohau.

Due to strong winds, the firefighting operation has been limited to the ground today. Helicopters with monsoon buckets have been unable to get up in the air.

Today fire crews focused their efforts on hotspots and the southern end of the fire.

A team of fire investigators has started its investigation into the cause, area of origin, and spread of the fire, but due to its complexity it will be sometime before this will be complete​

UPDATE 12.00pm Oct 6 2020

Limited access to Lake Ohau Alpine Village has been arranged for residents and owners of undamaged property within the fire cordons who have an urgent need to retrieve items from their houses. 

We are working with Fire and Emergency personnel to make managed access available because of the large amount of hazardous material in the area. This includes loose iron, fire-damaged trees and possible fire hotspots. 

Fire and Emergency has made three vehicles available between 10am and 2pm each day to drive residents from the cordon to their home and back. 

If you have an urgent need to retrieve essential items from your home, please register with us by email admin@waitaki.org​. Up to 12 places are available each day as long as conditions on the ground are safe, and that is determined by FENZ.

Controller Murray Linwood says the needs of each person are different and the team is working to  meet those individual needs. 

Emergency Operations Centre  staff are now also working to contact people affected who are not on site at present. People are encouraged to get in touch via admin@waitaki.org if they haven’t already done so. It does take some time to respond to these enquires and we appreciate people’s patience. It is important that our team accurately identifies the correct property before providing information.

Later today Waitaki District Council staff will be on site at Lake Ohau to begin assessing infrastructure. Council staff are also working on planning the recovery. FENZ and the Waitaki EOC are liaising with other agencies including Network Waitaki, Chorus and the Insurance Council.


UPDATE 7.30am Oct 6 2020


Due to strong winds overnight there have been a few flare-ups.  Fire crews are managing these and will continue fighting the fire today.

Helicopters are not currently able to fly due to the strong winds.  This will be reassessed if the weather changes.

It will be a challenging day for firefighters.

UPDATE 6pm Oct 5 2020


Fire fighting has continued at Lake Ohau today in challenging conditions, with strong winds and warm temperatures.

Work on the fire is progressing well.  Structure protection crews will be working through the night to deal with any flare-ups that might threaten properties that had escaped damage yesterday. 

Helicopters and ground crews will be back on the ground at first light.

Crews are working to reduce the hazards around undamaged properties, including fire-damaged trees, loose iron and debris. That work will need to be completed before residents can be given unrestricted access​.

UPDATE 5.30pm Oct 5 2020


This fire has been contained and we are in the mopping up phase with no active fire at this stage.  Some amazing work done by our Volunteers and Career fire crews.  Also a mention to our hardworking helicopter pilots and their support crew, also our Forestry Partners Wenita Forest Products (McHoull Contracting) and Port Blakeley who have also put in the hard yards over the duration.  We have a DOC crew patrolling the perimeter tonight and will return in the morning for more mopping up.  We again thank the public for their patience and understanding.​

​​UPDATE 5pm Oct 5 2020

Residents who need to retrieve essential items from undamaged properties within the fire cordons in the Lake Ohau area can register to be escorted to and from their homes from tomorrow (Tuesday).

Emergency Management and Fire and Emergency personnel are working together to arrange for managed access for essential purposes, such as tradespeople retrieving tools or people needing medication.

The access will be available between 10am and 2pm provided conditions are safe for entry. Residents will be transported in and out in a Fire and Emergency vehicle.

Fire crews are working to reduce the hazards around undamaged properties, including fire-damaged trees, loose iron and debris. That work will need to be completed before residents can be given unrestricted access, Fire and Emergency Incident Controller Rob Hands said.

“We appreciate how anxious people are to return home, or to retrieve personal possessions. We are providing escorted access as an interim step.”​

Registrations for managed access are being coordinated by the Waitaki District Council’s welfare team. Residents should register by emailing admin@waitaki.org​

UPDATE 1.30pm Oct 5 2020 


Residents of Lake Ohau Village have been escorted through the township this afternoon to view the damage following yesterday morning’s fire.

Assessment of the damage to homes is still underway.

As of midday today the fire had burnt 4600ha, of which 1900 is conservation estate. The fire has a perimeter of 41km.

11 helicopters and eight ground crews are fighting the fire. Despite the challenging conditions, with strong winds and warm temperatures.

At this stage we are confident that crews would have achieved 50 percent control of the fire perimeter by tomorrow night. That would place a 10m boundary of cold ground around the fire along half of its perimeter.​

UPDATE 11:30am Oct 5 2020 


Firefighting operations are continuing today with the weather potentially hampering our firefighting efforts with strong winds expected.  

We have 16 firefighting crews on the ground along with heavy machinery still working on containment lines.  

This morning we had a thermal imaging camera flown over the fire ground to identify any hotspots that remain. 

We ask the public to please stay away from the area and thank you for your patience and understanding.​

UPDATE 10:30am Monday Oct 5 2020:​

10:30 5 October 2020

A briefing for those affected by the fire at Lake Ohau was held at the welfare centre operating from the Twizel Events Centre at 9:00am this morning. Information was provided by Graeme Still of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and Phil Mackay of Civil Defence. Those at the briefing also heard from Civil Defence Minister Peni Henare and Mayor Gary Kircher. 

The focus of the Waitaki Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) today is on working with those affected to get a detailed understanding of their needs over the coming days and weeks. Staff from the Waitaki EOC are on the ground in Twizel to undertake this work and support those impacted by the fire. One-on-one meetings will be held after the visit to the village planned for 12pm today, with those affected to assess their needs. Work is also underway to contact those with property affected who were not on-site at the time of the fire. 

Civil Defence will be working with other agencies including the Waitaki District Council on the response and the recovery. A bus trip to Lake Ohau village for those affected is being organised for 12 noon today to view properties. Staff from FENZ will be available on the trip to answer questions along with other support agencies. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) has been working through the night to provide information on the extent of damage to property. There will be debrief for those affected following the trip.

People affected are being provided with meal vouchers, access to emergency medication and everyone was accommodated last night. Controller Murray Linwood praised those affected for their evacuation effort. He also thanked the Mackenzie and Waitaki communities for their offers of support. The offers are being recorded and this information will be used as needed through the response. 

FENZ continues to respond to the fire itself.


UPDATE 7:30am Monday Oct 5 2020: 


Four fire crews have been working overnight to protect homes and a tree plantation in the Lake Ohau area.

Fire and Emergency’s Incident Commander, Steve Jones, said that two of the crews were protecting remaining homes in Lake Ohau Village and the other two were working in the Quailburn area.

"The crews had a busy night as the wind speed increased, dealing with hot spots and flare ups”, Mr Jones said.

The Urban Search and Rescue team which arrived yesterday undertook an aerial reconnaissance using a drone at 2am and identified a significant number of hotspots, which will be targeted when the helicopters and ground crews begin work at daylight.

Eleven helicopters and nine ground crews will be attacking the fire today, with four crews continuing structure protection work.

Mr Jones said conditions on the fireground were expected to be challenging with high winds forecast throughout the day.

The Minister of Civil Defence, Hon Peeni Henare, will be visiting Ohau today to meet affected residents and fire crews.​

UPDATE 8:30pm Oct 4 2020: 


Firefighting operations have ceased for the evening with crews patrolling the fire ground overnight. Today crews were busy with Heavy Machinery putting in containment lines backed up with helicopters and ground crews. Further crews will be on site in the morning to continue in the fire suppression efforts.

We ask the public to please stay away from the area and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Further updates will be issued in the morning.​

UPDATE 4.00pm Oct 4 2020:


Eleven helicopters and seven ground crews are on site battling the fire at Lake Ohau. The fire continues to burn over approximately 1600 hectares.

As well as the fire crews and helicopters, two diggers and a grader are working to create firebreaks to help safeguard critical infrastructure, including the main power lines servicing Queenstown and Wanaka.

Having flown over the fireground this afternoon, it is estimated that at least 20 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Lake Ohau Village. An Urban Search and Rescue team will be deployed to make a full assessment of the village.

All residents are accounted for and we will have crews in the village overnight in case of any flare ups. Due to the high winds it has so far been unsafe for residents to return to their homes to assess damage. 

We are mindful of how upsetting it is for the residents and their safety is our main concern at this time.

The high winds meant the fire could not yet be contained and the situation may change rapidly with any shift in the wind.

UPDATE 3.00pm Sunday 4 Oct 2020:​

Media Release

Civil Defence supporting those affected by Lake Ohau Fire 

15:00 4 October 2020

The Waitaki Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is supporting those impacted by the fire at Lake Ohau. Fire and Emergency New Zealand crews are continuing to actively fight the fire.

There are currently 112 registration of people with the welfare centre operating from the Twizel Events Centre. The Waitaki EOC is co-ordinating welfare support. This support includes providing people with clothing, food, information, accommodation and basic toiletries for tonight. 

Controller Peter Muldrew noted there are no boundaries in an emergency and the Waitaki EOC is working together with multi agencies to support those affected. He also thanked the community for their offers of accommodation and support.


UPDATE 1.00pm Sunday 4 Oct 2020

Update regarding the fire at Livingstone. The Welfare Centre at Tokarahi Golf Course has been closed as Police have advised further evacuations are unlikely.​

UPDATE 11.30am Sunday 4 Oct 2020


Crews are continuing to actively fight the fire near Lake Ohau Village. 

There are now 5 helicopters in the air assisting with firefighting efforts and one more on the way.

The fire is approximately 200ha in size currently.

Winds continue to be very strong making for challenging firefighting conditions.

Unfortunately some houses have been lost and we are working with those affected in the community.​


UPDATE 11.15am Sunday 4 Oct 2020

Media Release

Waitaki Emergency Operations Centre Activated 

4 October 2020

The Waitaki Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has activated in support of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) who are responding to a significant fire at Lake Ohau. The fire has affected properties in Lake Ohau Village and some houses have been lost. Lake Ohau Road is currently closed and motorists should avoid the area while emergency services are at the scene.

Controller Peter Muldrew said the Waitaki EOC would be focused on supporting people impacted by the fire. The Twizel Events Centre is the welfare centre for this incident and approximately 90 people evacuated from Lake Ohau Village have registered there. People at the welfare centre have been briefed by FENZ. A further briefing for residents will be held at 12:00pm.

The fire is now moving in South West direction away from Lake Ohau village. Farm land may be affected and farmers are moving stock. Five helicopters are currently responding to the fire. 

A fire is also burning in a pine forestry block at Livingstone. For residents in Livingstone the evacuation centre is the Tokarahi Golf Course. If you are told to evacuate, get out and stay out until given the all clear to return.


UPDATE 10am Sunday 4 Oct 2020

Fire and Emergency NZ continue to respond to two fires in our region, one at Lake Ohau and the other at Livingstone.

People are asked to stay away from the area so the roads are free for emergency services to respond.​​

UPDATE 8am Sunday 4 Oct 2020

Civil Defence is operating in relation to two fires in the Waitaki region. One located at Lake Ohau and the other at Livingstone.

For residents in Livingstone the evacuation centre is the Tokarahi Golf Course.

For Lake Ohau, it is the Twizel events centre.

Residents in these areas are advised to listen to the radio for instructions from Fire Emergency NZ or Civil Defence.

If you are told to evacuate, get out and stay out until given the all clear to return.​


Page reviewed: 22 Oct 2020 3:51pm