Tech alert for wildfire risk to be trailed in Queenstown Lakes

by QLDC media - Sep 08, 2023

Cutting-edge technology is being trialled to monitor conditions within two of Queenstown Lakes District's recreation reserves - Ben Lomond in Queenstown and Mount Iron in Wānaka.  

The technology, if adopted, will be used to inform wider work underway to understand and manage the risk of wildfire to and from reserves across the district.  

QLDC resilience and climate action manager Bill Nicoll says with our changing climate we’re likely to see more extreme weather events which will increase the risk of wildfire, flooding, or landslide hazards impacting our communities.

“Council has been working closely with the community, FENZ, Emergency Management Otago, Otago Regional Council and SCION (Crown Institute for Fire Research) to evaluate how we can monitor these hazards and prepare for the challenges of a changing climate,” he says.

“As recent events in Hawaii, Greece and Canada have shown, wildfire can have a devasting impact on communities. Climate forecasts for our district indicate that we are likely to see an increased risk of wildfire conditions in the future so this trial is an important initiative to help ensure we are ready and prepared."

Five pole-mounted environmental sensor units will soon be installed in each location, providing live micro-climate weather updates, air quality, and visual and thermal imaging which can also assist in early fire detection.

The information gathered by the sensors is transmitted in real-time to allow environmental conditions to be monitored and any fire ignition source to be immediately detected. The information will be available on an app to help people understand and adjust to changing conditions and be alerted if a fire event is detected. The environmental data can also provide reserve users with real-time data on pollen count, air quality and weather conditions to help improve their recreational experience while using the reserves. 

Work to install the units will start in late September with the network expected to be up and running before summer.

The trial is a partnership between the council, Spark New Zealand, and Attentis Technology. 

Meanwhile, work continues to understand costs and priorities for a wider Wildfire Risk Reduction Programme for council reserves. This primarily concentrates on the early warning system trial, signage and education programmes, along with a strategy for how the council and private operators will manage access to reserves during periods of extreme risk. The council is currently engaging with key stakeholders and potentially affected communities on this work. 

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