Burning peat may revert to wetland

Burning peat mayrevert to wetland

20 March 2008

published by http://times-age.co.nz

New Zealand — A peat seam smouldering on cleared Carterton swampland may bereturned to its original wetland state to permanently stop the subterraneanfire’s periodic flare-ups.

Carterton District Council has also introduced a permanent fire ban on thethree properties between Chester and Wilton roads where the peat seam is burning.

“We’ve put a caveat on the land and you can only have a fire there witha permit this applies at all times,” council water race manager andrural fire officer Melvin Pike said.

Permits can only be issued by principal rural fire officer Phill Wishnowskyand one other rural fire officer, he said.

The fire has been burning since October when, before the summer fire ban,property owner Noel Reid accidentally reignited it as he burned windrows on hardground adjacent to the swamp, Mr Pike said.

After the fire burnt out the seam reignited probably through aslow-burning root, affecting three properties over 2.4ha on Mr Reid’s farm,neighbour William Stolt’s farm and council land that runs adjacent to a waterrace.

“Both owners have agreed to the ban and the council has surrendered ourrights to burn as well,” Mr Pike said.

The fire also burned throughout the summer of 2002 and 2003 before it wasreignited last year and Mr Pike said council discussions with Mr Stolt aboutreturning the volatile land to its natural wetland state had yielded positiveresults.

“Long-term we’re looking at turning that land back into a wetland, thewater levels will be lifted in winter and a weir set up to keep the levelsup,” Mr Pike said.

“We’ve had agreement from Mr Stolt and we’re in the first line ofdiscussion with the Greater Wellington Regional Council and now it’s just amatter of discussing it with Mr Reid.”

Mr Pike said the original wetland was drained about 30 years ago and that itwould be returned to this state with the introduction of suitable swamplandplants like kahikatea and manuka.

“The fire has very much diminished and we’re trying to saturate it butat the moment it seems to be under control,” council chief executive ColinWright said at Tuesday’s council operations meeting where he announced the totalfire ban for the three properties.

Mr Pike said that, for now, the fire isn’t smoking but that “there wasstill something going on underground”.

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