New Zealanders in the South Island of the country have woken up to a red sun and orange skies on new year’s day, with the smoke from Australia’s catastrophic bushfires drifting east overnight.
Met Service forecaster Cameron Coutts said the intensity of the Australian bushfires in the past few days had fuelled the New Zealand haze, and this was the fourth time this summer New Zealand had been affected by fires across the Tasman.
“The last couple of days the fires in Australia have picked up in their intensity and produced a significant amount of smoke,” Coutts said. “Most of it is at high levels once it reaches New Zealand. There is the odd report of people being able to smell smoke, but it is not really affecting us at ground level at the moment, even though it is quite thick.”
Coutts said the smoke could increase the chance of rain and thunderstorms in the South Island, of which significant levels of both were forecast later on Wednesday.
Holidayers in the popular party town of Wanaka were the first to notice the haze, which people variously described as “sepia”, “orange” and “apocalyptic”.
Many people in Queenstown and Wanaka also noted a strong smell of smoke and burning.
A spokesperson for the Queenstown Lakes District Council said no health warnings had been issued, and the council had been assured the haze offered no danger to local residents.
“As it currently stands visibility is pretty poor, and it is slightly smelly outside,” the spokesperson said.
“It is quite odd, I looked out the window and expected to see sunshine and it was this weird beige haze, I’ve never been in a nuclear fallout but that’s what it looked like.”
New Zealand’s own bushfire season has been cool and low-key this summer, and crews of Kiwi firefighters have instead been providing support to their Australian colleagues in NSW and Victoria.
The ministry of health has been contacted for comment.
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