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Major New Zealand wildfire expected to burn for weeks | New Zealand News

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A large wildfire in New Zealand is expected to keep burning for weeks but has moved away from some inhabited areas, according to authorities, raising hopes that residents of an evacuated village will be able to soon return home.

About 3,000 inhabitants of Wakefield, just outside Nelson at the top of South Island, were ordered out on  Saturday as flames razed bushland within two kilometres of their homes.

The fire erupted early last week amid scorching conditions in the heavily forested area and by early Monday had swept through an estimated 2,300 hectares.

So far one home has been destroyed by the fire and there have been no reported deaths or injuries.

About 190 firefighters, 10 helicopters and two planes have been deployed to battle the fire.

Fire chief John Sutton said that although conditions had eased, the blaze remained unpredictable and it was too early to say it was under control.

“There’s still an enormous amount of heat there and there’s a lot of unburned areas,” he told reporters. “So although we might be turning a corner, there will be firefighters working on that fire until well into March.”

No significant rainfall is forecast in the area over the next two weeks.





About 190 firefighters have been deployed to battle the fire [Chad Sharman/New Zealand Defence Force/Handout via Reuters]

Civil Defence regional chief Roger Ball said Wakefield residents could return home as early as Monday evening but the area was still under a state of emergency.

“Returning residents need to understand and accept that they need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions change,” he said.

He said residents of valleys outside the village, which are much closer to the fire front, would have to remain in emergency accommodation until further notice.

The main fire is believed to have been accidentally started by farm equipment, although there have also been two minor blazes which police said were deliberately lit.

Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing a hot Southern Hemisphere summer.

Australia sweltered through its hottest month on record in January and there have been wildfires razing the south and flooding in the tropical north. New Zealand’s weather has not been as extreme, although it did experience a heatwave over the last few days of January.

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A tale of 2 subways: Comparing Ottawa’s LRT to Montreal’s Metro

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Ottawa’s 13-stop, 12.5-kilometre Confederation Line has been under construction for more than six years and missed four deadlines.

More than 50 years ago, the City of Montreal managed to build a complex, 26-stop subway system — including a connection below the St. Lawrence River — in less than five years, on time and on budget.

So how was Montreal able to pull off a project twice the size, and do it in less time?

1. Keeping deadlines

The City of Montreal designed and built its $213-million Metro with an eye on Expo 67, and in a 1963 interview then mayor Jean Drapeau promised the rubber-tired subway would be ready in time and on budget.

Drapeau delivered, and the Metro opened in 1966.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson made no such promises. However, he had originally hoped to have the above-ground portion of the Confederation Line completed by Canada Day 2017, and for the trains to be up and running by the following spring.

The Rideau Street sinkhole put a wrench in those plans.

This archived February 2016 screenshot from the City of Ottawa’s Confederation Line website shows that the plan was initially to have full LRT service launched by the spring of 2018. (www.ligneconfederationline.ca)

2. Different safety standards

According to Benoît Clairoux, the Montreal Transit Corporation’s unofficial historian, 70 per cent of the Metro’s tunnels were blasted through the rock using explosives. The rest involved ripping up streets or vacant lots.

Ottawa’s $2.1-billion system is less disruptive, at least on the surface: its 2.5-kilometre tunnel was dug entirely with three subterranean boring machines.

The Montreal project was also marred by a series of serious construction accidents, claiming the lives of 12 workers before the first trains ran.

With more stringent safety standards, the Confederation Line project has seen a few injuries, but no fatalities.

“We want to ensure that during construction and after, we always have something safe and reliable,” said OC Transpo spokesperson André Brisebois.

This machine is one of three used to bore the 2.5-kilometre tunnel under downtown Ottawa. (City of Ottawa)

3. Different technology

You might assume that as technology advances, the length of time it takes to complete such major infrastructure projects shrinks. But you’d be wrong.

According to Brisebois, the Confederation Line is a much more sophisticated system than the Montreal Metro when it was first introduced.

In 1966, human operators controlled the Metro trains. When Ottawa’s LRT system finally opens its doors to passengers,  human operators will still be in the driver’s seat, but machines will be running the system.

Everything is computerized, but that takes more time to develop, install and to test. OC Transpo said it doesn’t want to compromise the safety and efficiency of its LRT network.

Ottawa’s LRT system, including these turnstiles at Parliament station, will be far more technologically advanced than Montreal’s Metro when it was introduced in 1966. (City of Ottawa)

4. Public vs. private

From beginning to end, the City of Montreal was the prime contractor on its Metro project. Ottawa hired a private consortium, Rideau Transit Group (RTG).

University of Ottawa law professor Gilles LeVasseur said there’s an assumption the private sector is more effective at managing projects and reducing costs, but that’s not always the case.

Just ask the City of Ottawa.

“We trust the private sector because the private sector makes promises, with delivery and deadlines that seem very attractive. The problem is that they’re often not able to meet the requirements, and are always asking for delays,” LeVasseur said in French.

The latest deadline for Ottawa’s light rail project is now August.

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Recycling plant’s closure leaves Ottawa Valley towns scrambling

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A swath of the Ottawa Valley has nowhere to send its recycling following the abrupt closure of a sorting plant in Renfrew, Ont.

Beaumen Waste Management Systems shut down Sunday after more than two decades in business, leaving 32 workers jobless. 

“People are upset,” said mechanic John Greer, who was at the plant Wednesday to pick up his personal belongings.

Greer, who worked at the plant for four years, said employees received no warning about the closure. He fears the plant is likely closed for good.

Workers were expecting their final paycheques Wednesday, but have been told they’ll have to wait until Friday. 

The company’s president and CEO, Andrew Shouldice, did not return calls from CBC.

Beaumen Waste Management Systems Ltd. closed its plant in Renfrew, Ont., on Sunday. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Challenge for municipalities

The closure poses a major challenge for municipalities from Renfrew to Arnprior that relied on the company to pick up and sort their recycling.

Beaumen had contracts with Renfrew, Arnprior, Horton, Admaston/Bromley, McNab/Braeside and Whitewater Region.

The City of Brockville also sent some of its blue box material to the plant for sorting.

Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said he was shocked by the sudden closure. Emon said he was part of a delegation of municipal officials who toured the plant just three weeks ago, and there was no hint it was about to close.

Reeve of Renfrew shocked to find out recycling plant has closed 00:00 00:43 Reeve of Renfrew shocked to find out recycling plant has closed 0:43

However, there had been signs in the past that the company was struggling, Emon said. Last year the company urged the Town of Renfrew to up its per household pickup fee in order to generate an extra $60,000, he said.

“[Beaumen’s president] said, ‘Look, I’m having difficulties,'” Emon said. According to Emon, Shouldice cited China’s strict new rules restricting the import of foreign waste.

“We agreed at that point to increase our payment to him, so we were a bit surprised that this happened,” Emon said.

Scramble for new facility

For the time being, Renfrew residents are being asked to hang onto their recyclable waste, but town officials are worried their patience will wear thin and all that plastic, glass and paper will end up in the local landfill.

Renfrew resident Ray Yolkowskie said he’s uncomfortable with the idea of throwing recylcables in the trash, but he’s not going to let it pile up forever.

“It’s going to be a lot more garbage in the dump, but what can you do?” he said. 

Longtime Renfrew resident Ray Yolkowskie isn’t happy with the idea of letting his recycling pile up, but doesn’t want it to end up in the dump, either. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Beaumen is not the only recycling company in financial peril, and Emon fears it could be a canary in the coalmine, with recyclers across Canada struggling to remain sustainable as the rules of the game change.

Earlier this month, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario applauded the Ontario government’s initiative to examine how manufacturers can be made more responsible for the cost of municipal blue box programs. 

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New Ukraine president, and former actor, to meet Trudeau in Toronto

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Ukraine’s new president will visit Toronto next week for a major international conference on his country’s future that Canada is hosting, and where he will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau’s office said he and Volodymyr Zelenskiy will discuss Ukraine’s reform efforts and its path toward integration with Europe.

Zelenskiy, a popular actor and comedian, but a political neophyte, ran away with this spring’s presidential election, unseating Petro Poroshenko.

He is now tasked with guiding his country through its ongoing conflict with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and fomented a pro-Kremlin insurgency in the country’s east that has left more than 13,000 dead.

The Ukraine Reform Conference is a three-day gathering that begins Tuesday, which the government said will include key international friends and partners to support Ukraine.

Trudeau said in a statement that he wants to use the meeting with Zelenskiy to reaffirm Canada’s deep commitment to the Ukrainian people.

“Canada and Ukraine share a deep and historic friendship built on shared values and strong people-to-people bonds,” said Trudeau.

Ben Rowswell, the president of the Canadian International Council, said the conference will underscore the West’s and Canada’s commitment to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

“Canada has been a real stalwart defender of democracy in Ukraine, part of a broader approach we have to the international order to ensure that countries, even if they’re very close to Russia are able maintain their sovereignty and to operate as democracies free from the interference of hostile foreign powers like Russia,” said Rowswell, who most recently served as Canada’s last ambassador to Venezuela.

Canada became the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Canada has supplied it with $785 million worth of military, legal, financial, development and political assistance since 2014 when President Vladimir Putin tried to bring the country back into Russia’s sphere of influence as Ukraine was poised to deepen its integration with the European Union.

With the federal election set for October, Ukraine’s turmoil has implications for Canada’s domestic politics: the 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent comprise one of the country’s most influential diaspora communities.

That reality was not lost of on the Conservatives under former prime minister Stephen Harper, who visited Kyiv repeatedly and sent special teams of Canadian election monitors to support Ukraine’s various ballots over the years.

The Trudeau government has followed suit. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s own Ukrainian heritage has helped keep the country near the top of her agenda.

Freeland was one of the first Western politicians to visit Zelenskiy in Kyiv after he was declared the victor last month.

A senior Canadian official who was in the room for their meeting, but was not authorized to speak for attribution, said that while the new president and his entourage have little political experience, Canada isn’t worried he will shift Ukraine back towards the Kremlin and away from Canada and its western allies.

Zelenskiy is frequently compared with former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who went from being a Hollywood actor to the California governorship before winning the Oval Office.

Though Zelenskiy lacks political experience, the long-running political satire in which he portrayed a fictional Ukraine president demonstrated a well-researched and sophisticated understanding of politics and corruption, the Canadian official said, comparing him to Canada’s Rick Mercer.

Canada has offered Zelenskiy’s officials training on how to actually run a government because they lack experience and are running a country whose institutions are not as strong as those in the West.

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