Forest Destruction at Taupo
Following a prolonged drought, a fire, thought to have been started from a cigarette butt, broke out alongside the Wairakei-Oruanui Road in the Taupo region on 7 February 1946. Next day, fanned by a strong wind, it crossed the Waikato River south of the Aratiatia rapids and threatened the Taupo township. On 9 February the wind changed and the fire travelled north-east, ultimately sweeping both sides of the Waikato River towards Reporoa. This fire, in the space of a few days, swept over more than 250,000 acres of country and destroyed about 30,000 acres of young afforestation company plantations, mostly radiata pine. During the rains that followed in the autumn, very dense regeneration of radiata pine occurred in the burnt-over plantations. The fire had opened the cones which are normally closed and liberated the seeds. On the best sites there was an establishment of over half a million seedlings per acre.
As a result of this fire, which was regarded at the time as a national calamity, the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1947 was passed. This makes adequate provision for rural fire control throughout the country and has laid the foundation for a good rural firefighting organisation.
by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.