Pigeon Valley Fire

Pigeon Valley Fire

Pigeon Valley Fire

Helicopter with monsoon bucket dosing the fire

Helicopter with monsoon bucket dosing the fire

From an evacuee's point of view

By Dave Emerson, Pūkenga Kaiwhakahaere (Site Manager - Motueka)


As a Wakefield resident and therefore an evacuee of the recent fires in Pigeon Valley I thought I would write a couple of lines from an evacuee’s point of view.

I first learnt of the fires, after returning from a camping trip with the whānau, via Facebook. At first, I thought ‘’No way" I would notice a fire that close to us (approx. 7 km), then I looked out the window to notice the huge plumes of the fires smoke. I got nervous, few hours ensued then the reality that the fire was heading in the other direction away from our whare but towards a lot of people that are very important to us both whānau and friends. Like most people in our region and those with whānau affected by the fires we had several sleepless nights worrying about our near neighbours and friends. We however welcomed the opportunity and time to pack some gear and ready our properties against the fire and possible evacuation.

Dave Emerson's house painted with big red X

Dave Emerson's house painted with big red X

Although I never really felt that we would lose our property the reality hit on the Thursday evening/night as we could see the fire in Teapot Valley and the winds were heading towards Wakefield, that we were likely to evacuate. One of my enduring memories will be of the thousands of people lining the roads watching the fire, half of which seemed to be smoking. We were evacuated for 4 days and on our return, it was a surreal experience which I liken to entering a ghost town with each building having big red painted X’s.

Events such as the Pigeon Valley Fire become all-consuming when you are affected, you find yourself monitoring several social media channels and every discussion is referenced against the latest news. The other thing that happened is that the community came together for support and I have been humbled by the number of people who have offered support to my whānau.  There is a sense of helplessness when you are evacuated from your home in respect to not being able to do anything or even monitor the situation. You feel like you have lost the ability to respond to the event and are therefore a bystander.

I am thankful to work for an organisation that genuinely cares for their people, both staff and whānau, from the support from my colleagues to the opportunity to visit and support those whānau affected by this event. I have several things that I am thankful for during this episode and several acknowledgements which made life much easier than it could have been;

  •  Aunty Flo and Rana for your mahi and support on behalf of Te Piki Oranga, for your expertise and tireless mahi. I can’t express what this meant to my whanau to know that you two were supporting our community.

  • Aunty Larry and the Iwi liaison team for being part of the overall response to this event, and for being the voice for Māori.

  • Barney Thomas and Shane Graham, it’s difficult to articulate what it meant to have these two fronts the media on behalf of the Māori response. I can say that from the time they started I felt that my needs were being protected and championed.

  • Te Piki Oranga, our board, our management and our staff for having a willingness to do the right thing for our communities.

  • To our friends that allowed us to stay at their whare, for making us feel welcome. I will forever be grateful.

  • And of course, those men and women who fought the fires, created firebreaks, maned roadblocks and monitored our homes.

Through the eyes of a Te Piki Oranga Emergency Navigator

By Flo Joyce, Pūkenga Manaaki (Oral Health and Emergency Navigator)


Ko Takitimu te waka  
Ko Tamatea Arikinui te Tangata  
Ko Ngati Poporo te hapu  
Ko Kahuranaki te maunga  
Ko Ngaruroro ko Tukituki nga awa  
Ko Nukanoa te wharenui  
Ko Matariki te whare kai  
Ko Flo Joyce ahau

 As a Health and Emergency Navigator, myself and Rana Eggers was part of a team from Te Piki Oranga, Nelson Bays Primary Health and DHB to work alongside Civil Defence to network with other organisations to help people that had been affected by the Pigeon Valley Fires.

It brought fear, stress, anxiety to children as well as their whānau. We were able to approach people and talk to them to see how we could meet their needs how they had been affected. For some, just needing to talk or adjusting to the changes. The main needs identified for those utilising our services were:

  • people evacuated had forgotten medication repeats, 

  • GP appointment to fill medication requirements,

  • Financial assistance: no money coming in due to loss of income,

  • accommodation payments and 

  • general information.