Aussie, NZ connection remains strong

MANY commemorate Anzac Day with a trip to Gallipoli or attending a dawn service, but for some the cross-Tasman connection represents much more, as specialised Kiwi firefighters proved when they supported Forest Fire Management Victoria with fire fighting and clean-up efforts across 100,000 hectares of the Alpine National Park.

Forty-two courageous firefighters were deployed from New Zealand over six weeks in March and April to assist Forest Fire Management Victoria crews battle blazes, often facing changing weather conditions in extremely difficult and hard-to-reach terrain.

The New Zealand crews also supported the process to regain access and make safe the expansive track network around Lake Tali Karng, nestled high up in the Alpine National Park.

Led by Parks Victoria rangers familiar with the tough terrain, the specialist fire fighters, skilled in working in arduous conditions, were helicoptered in or hiked up to six hours return to reach the sacred place to the Gunaikurnai people, known as the ‘hidden lake’.

There are still weeks of mopping up ahead, and track closures remain across the Alpine National Park.

More information about track closures can be found on the Parks Victoria website.

Parks Victoria works with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne Water and VicForests as part of Forest Fire Management Victoria.

Parks Victoria fire and emergency ranger Greg Hitch said working together embraced a spirit of camaraderie in this special, sacred and remote area.

“While our Kiwi and FFMV crews have done an amazing job to begin clearing the way so we can access the area, there is significant damage, and closures across the foothills and Southern Alps remain in place, including into Lake Tali Karng,” he said.

“We ask all visitors to please observe and respect all signage indicating road or track closures in the area, as they are in place for public safety and to protect environmental and cultural values.”

Firefighter and deputy principal rural fire officer with Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Roger Neslon, said his crews were pleased to be able to assist their Australian neighbours in the time of need.

“The camaraderie was amazing and allowed for the seamless work between people of all walks of life,” he said.

“It was an experience never to forget.

“Not only did we get to learn from our Australian colleagues – we made friends for life.”