It is still too early to know the full extent of damage to public conservation land from the devastating Glendhu Bluffs fire on January 9, but Diamond Lake’s walking and rock climbing areas are safe.

Department of Conservation pou matarautaki operations manager Central Otago Nikki Holmes said the 280ha fire was contained by Fire and Emergency New Zealand after four days, but continues to be closely monitored.

The fire started at Emerald Bay, beside Lake Wanaka.

The 7.1km perimeter contained a mix of private, retired and Doc land.

Exact figures for the percentage of Doc land affected are still being investigated.

and The Rocky Summit Track were untouched. It is a really special track, literally hand built, initially by Stuart Landsborough of Puzzling World fame, and later by Doc. It has immense importance to local people and visitors,Holmes said.

Most of the damage to Doc land appears to be at Hospital Flat and Glendhu Bluffs.

These areas were retired to Doc by the Macrae family, whose neighbouring Glendhu Station also suffered loss due to the fire.

Mrs Holmes said the greatest impact of the fire was the loss of rare examples of mature lowland forest in a region dominated by beech forest or drylands/grasslands.

Doc staff have not yet been able to survey the vegetation or determine the ongoing ecological impact of the fire.

“Many of the plants present were mature, so regaining the same condition would take many years. We are not aware of any threatened native fauna in the fire area, but we know it has been a habitat for bird species such as fantail/piwakawaka, grey warblers, bellbird/korimako, pipits and introduced species like sparrows, skylarks and blackbirds. The rocky areas combined with grassland and shrubland habitat likely provided habitat for common skink and gecko species,” Holmes said.

An ecologist would investigate once it was safe to access the land.

Mrs Holmes said Doc acknowledged “the incredible efforts” of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, helicopter operators, fire volunteers and Doc staff.

She also thanked neighbouring landowners for offering their paddock as a heli pad and locals who provided food and drink to the fire fighters.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated by Fire and Emergency.

The Glendhu Bluff Conservation Area, Diamond Lake Conservation Area and Hospital Flat Conservation Area collectively cover 237ha, with public access from Mt Aspiring Rd.