Now the smoke reaches New Zealand


Bushfire smoke and ash from Australia has turned glaciers in New Zealand brown

From ROGER TAVENER in Sydney

Early-rising New Zealanders woke up not knowing if it was day or night.

In Scandinavia they call it grey-time; it never gets light, it never gets dark.

A morose bunch, they drink a lot, shoot reindeer and kill themselves.

Smoke burnt the nostrils of South Island Kiwis, used to alpine-fresh air and they were covered in an orange smog.

And, Croiky, their pristine glaciers have turned brown.

At last, Australia's drifting mega-cloud of poisonous smoke from wildfires the like of which the world has never before seen, was enveloping the mountainous country.

the downward plod of prime minister slo-mo

While thousands of Aussies shelter from the firestorms on beaches, politicians have buried their heads in the sand. 

Ancient warships are trundling south from Sydney in what may become the biggest seaborne evacuation since Dunkirk.

They call Prime Minister Scott Morrison ScoMo here. I've a new one for him: SloMo.

First he had to be dragged back kicking and screaming from a secret holiday in Hawaii. 

He drank pina coladas while his citizens were wondering where their next sip of water was coming from.

He delayed bringing in the Army until it was too late for them to get past the fire wall thousands of kilometres long and miles high in places.

SloMo yesterday refused to travel south with his Navy, preferring instead to take tea on the green, green grass of his grace-and- favour state home with the best views in town. He was welcoming the Australian cricket team.

Well, it was a bit smoky and in the 80s, but there was a cooling sea breeze to blow away the acrid smell of burning humans, animals, homes, and businesses wafting in.

Meanwhile, back on the beaches, a humanitarian crisis was unfolding, plain as daylight, if there had been any, for all to see.

But not SloMo.

Right this minute, those thousands of locals and holidaymakers huddle on beaches, cut-off from the world.

They have no mobile phone connection, no electricity, no working shops no petrol.

And now food and water are rapidly being exhausted by the beach people who cower in the sea under drenched blankets when attacked by white hot burning embers falling from the sky.

They don't know what the future will bring, or even if they have one.

SloMo might even attend the Australia v New Zealand Test match tomorrow and raise a chilled pint of the amber nectar to his mouth.

I'm sure I know what countryman Bradman would have thought of this leader who operates in slow motion and appears not to give a XXXX for the poor souls trapped in hell down the coast.

It had travelled 2000kms and cancelled daylight for the forseeable future.

In a smoky Sydney I showered and had a few thoughts. Just a few because I was worried the water police might nab me if I exceeded the statutory four minutes under an already pathetic dribble.

(They love punishing people here. I'm fighting a $457 fine for going through a red light I couldn't see for smoke. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

One was that this was probably going to be the new normal.

My favourite palm tree has died in the drought and pisses me off every time I see it.

Once liveable parts of Australia — as Aborigines have warned (and those guys know their natural world) — are becoming uninhabitable.

In the old days the black fellas would just up sticks and look for their witchety grubs elsewhere...

I'm not sure parts of urban Australia, fast running out of water and electricity, if not coal and iron ore and uranium, can pack up and move somewhere wetter.


On Saturday it will be 46C (115F) here, with huge winds.

That can blow fire-storm embers 15kms easy and start new monster blazes.

So, without a goddam doubt, more villages and towns will be razed over the weekend. 

The human death score of 38 and counting will increase.

Maybe half a billion incinerated animals will become a billion.

Two thousand homes are rubble. Try getting insurance now...

Hundreds more businesses will pop, spontaneously.

It'll happen. Mankind hasn't the power to stop this phenomenal fire beast.

I had time for another little thought...

Maybe Australian bushfires — incomprehensible in size — aren't as sexy as typhoons, hurricanes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

I don't see any firestorm chasers in town.

Where are the cheques for millions from concerned countries and their aid workers and disaster specialists, usually only too keen to get on TV at a time of natural disaster?


It's not though is it?  It's unnatural, but not if it happens again next year or, bugger me, never stops?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, once affectionately known as ScoMo, but re-tagged SloMo by me, had a nice long Brekkie as his speech writers toiled over his latest, lugubrious address to the nation.

"Stay Calm and Carry On" was his message to beleaguered communities down to their final drops of water and licking the last dregs from Vegemite bottles.

Maybe Neville Chamberlain's Bondi-based great-grandson came up with that one for him before getting on his surf-board.

'Fire peace in our time,' he might have said.

Because, for now, the future is most definitely orange. 

And that means Australia's burning.

(PS: My sort of brother-in-law made up that slogan when he started a new mobile phone company.

Whaddya think, he asked. Why Orange? I asked. Seemed a bit dumb. 

The company did ok and paid him off with millions. I've come to accept my judgment sucks.) 


We've lost our Mogo
Hard-bitten and cynical, nothing has prepared me for the shocking news this arvo that the iconic gold-rush Aussie town of Mogo (pop 389) has been turned to smouldering ash by a raging fire-storm.

Thankfully, the heroic local volunteers saved the world-famous zoo and animals. 

Rural, real Australia, not its confected big coastal cities, is being systematically  burnt off the map. And there's no hype in that statement.

I'd always stop in Mogo for a pint and a plant. In that order. 

The people were welcoming and formed a wonderfully bohemian community. It felt good.

I wonder, depending on who's left, what they're doing tonight?

Meanwhile, nearby,  thousands are up to their necks in sea water attempting to avoid fire tornadoes and hellish flaming creations a vengeful climate is spewing on a country in a state of catastrophe.

The death toll mounts. Loss of wildlife is incalculable, never to recover.

Unborn babies will never know their heroic firie fathers.

There are a million tears.

But it doesn't rain any more.

Killer bushfires intensify as temperatures hit 45C 


AUSTRALIA — and a watching world — holds its breath this weekend as the perfect firestorm builds to a nightmarish crescendo.

Huge winds and temperatures in the mid-40s will create the planet's largest-ever wildfires.

Some 200,000 people have evacuated as two mega-blazes threaten to merge causing untold mayhem.

They're predicted to decimate millions more hectares of villages, towns and countryside.

People will lose their homes and animals. Some will lose their lives.

Two thousand firefighters will risk theirs trying to defend what they can.

They face the agonising choice of prioritising what to protect.

On the other side of the world Tansy Forster, wife of former Daily Mail royal photographer Mike, is anxiously waiting for news.

The animal-loving couple now live in Normandy at their Ferm l'Eglise, home to several rescue animals, alpacas, llamas and welcome guests visiting war graves and sites.

One of her close Aussie pals lives near Koetong, Victoria, in an area designated as in a State of Disaster.

Like millions of Aussies they met in their local community halls to discuss the impending disaster.

Chum Meaghan, who has an Alpaca wool farm, and many other animals, was told her home and 17 others in a nearby valley could not be protected.

She would just have to take what she could and leave. 

"They got the alpacas and horses to safety, but have not been able to move her flock of sheep.

"Other neighbours have stayed to fight the fire, but she said their lives were more important than anything, although she is so worried about the animals left behind.

"I'm terrified for her and everyone in the affected regions over these coming days. I've lost contact because there's probably no internet." 

Tansy supports local Oz charity, the exotically-named Burrumbuttock Hay Runners, who have been driving feed thousands of kilometres to keep starving animals alive.

They're running out of resources and welcome donations.

Evacuees have only a few hours left to flee the wall of fire bearing down on them.

People are praying the experts have got it wrong and there is no apocalypse, now.

Area the size of Switzerland falls victim to raging bush fires

In his latest despatch from the front line, ROGER TAVENER experiences at first hand the insufferable heat sweeping Australia

AT LEAST, after all the BS, one politician had the cajones to say it...

What's happened in South and Eastern Australia equates to having been blown off the map by an atomic bomb.

An area the size of Switzerland has now been obliterated.

But, apart from unquenchable fires, it ain't half hot, mum. (She worries).

So, I was curious to know what it would be like to hang out in the hottest place on the planet.

You know, a bucket-list kind of thing.

So I popped over to Penrith (there were also warnings it could soon be on fire) in Western Sydney.

A working-class suburb, it sits at the base of the Blue Mountains, 45 minutes out of the Central Business District and, as I discovered, not in their shade.

Meteorologists told me it sucks in heat like a black hole devours energy.

I wasn't much the wiser.

Typically, as reporters are apt, I got there a tad late. Just one more, somebody said as I was about to leave.

So my Australian Bureau of Meteorology app registered 47.8C (118F) when I stepped out of an air-con Uber. I'd just missed the top end 48.9C .


Nevertheless a degree down was STILL the hottest on the planet and one hell of a shock to my system. My British lungs, raised on a mostly moist pre-decimal 40F, weren't happy at all gasping in super-heated circa 120F smoky fumes.

And, in a minute, I needed a tissue to mop my brow and body; Crikey, my pores had burst open, lusting for air.

There was a strange orangey heat shimmer like those desert mirages seen by people dying of thirst in films. Voices sounded echoey and alien. 

My blood was morphing, thinning in the heat. My cells were melting, breaking down as my body temperature went to levels it didn't know existed.

I've been to the Sahara and other hot-spots, but this was unbearable. 

I seriously wondered if the old body could take it.

There's only one way to survive in such hostile conditions and, obviously, I'd requested Mr Uber to drop me near the nicest pub in town.

Oh yes, the fires. A few hundred more homes went over the weekend. Many more under threat.

Three more dead; some people missing.


Under fives and oldies still waiting on the beach to be Dunkirked by the navy. They were left on the shore because of health and safety concerns.

Don't get me started on that.

The rampant mega-blazes are taking all before them. Pretty much wiping out so many centres of Australian heritage.

Beautiful historic places like Batlow and Adelong on the road to the Snowy mountains, disfigured, at least, by the waves of fire.

There's a terrible video doing the social media rounds showing the road to Australia's apple-growing centre, Batlow.

Don't look if you like wildlife. It's truly horrific.

Is it even worth visiting Australia any more? Living here will be impossible if it keeps on heating up.

Already thousands of farmers have given up and walked away from their dustbowl farms.

And, as I ventured the other day, and now confirmed by many scientists, this is likely the new normal.

It's too hot to do anything. Let alone breathe.

Many country touristy places are damaged beyond repair.

The air quality in the cities is dangerously toxic and far worse than places like Delhi.

The face of Australia is changing before our eyes.

It'll burn a huge hole in your bank account. And, right now, it's as much fun as holidaying in post-A bomb Hiroshima.

ROGER TAVENER, reporting from Sydney, warns that the Australian bushfires are a wake up call to the world

CLIMATE-devastated Australia and the rest of the world now need to think outside of the box.

The "Lucky" country just ran out of good fortune.

Like a drunk in a casino, it's scrabbling around in its pockets to find a few bucks, deluded it can gamble it's way back from the brink of destruction.

Let's be brutally honest, things have to change. Or we die.

Just ask the billion innocent animals perishing in agony. A billion. A billion...

This is the wake-up call to end all wake-up calls.

If we don't wake-up, like now, one day not so far off we'll go to bed and it'll be the big sleep.

We missed the alarm in the previous century. We've surely got to hear it now...

If you deny global warming, climate change, the fact your goddam ice cream melts a lot quicker, you should be put in a strait-jacket.

I know little Oz is responsible for just 1.3pc of the evil global carbon emissions.

But the in-denial government keeps selling land and coal and mineral mining rights to China and India.

Once proud Darwin, which stood against the attempted WWII invasion by Japan is now owned for 99 years by the corrupt, communist, one-party Chinese government.

Why? Because it can ship it's zillion tonnes of fossil fuel out across the Great Barrier Reef to its 80 new coal-powered power stations.

This country also sells mega-millions of precious underground water to foreign superannuation funds, so they can bottle it and sell it back at 10 times the price.

None of this is the will of the people.

Corrupt politicians just do it.

They only sit for three years, so by the time they're found out, they've scarpered.And, hey, I'm as right wing as you'll get but...

Try getting China, Russia, India and south-east Asia to change their ways. Tough job I know. 

Who's gonna make it happen.

Trump's complicated it now with his Iran intervention.

But what's happening here in Australia is more than a shot across the bows.

Nowhere should have to bear the welter of grief we are carrying for the annihilation of the unique and beautiful wildlife and townships and forests this country once had.

Oh and the tax-paying public - thousands of them homeless and possession-less and their businesses a bonfire of political vanities.

They need some help.

But if things don't change we'll be lambs to the slaughter.

From ROGER TAVENER in Sydney

THE menfolk picked up a sheet, hid their shotguns and softly told their wives and children to draw the curtains.

They wouldn't be back for quite a while. Turn up the TV, loud.

No, don't make lunch. Or dinner.

Ignore the bangs.

And don't look out on what was once prime grazing land.

They went to that secret locked stash of cartridges hidden in a safe place.

They pocketed them by the hundreds.

And they grabbed their sharpest shovel.

They already had tears streaming down in their faces. Their hands were trembling.

As farmers, they knew what they had to do.

Their families had worked Kangaroo Island for generations and they accepted it was their responsibility to their fathers and grandfathers.

And they owed it to the tens of thousands of suffering sheep, dying far too slowly on those burnt killing fields, once their lush pasture, now ravaged by a uncontrollable wildfire that had engulfed the idyllic isle.

They went out and shot their pals one by one; the helpless animals had fear in their eyes.

But they'd been burnt so bad.

The farmers of Kangaroo Island, half of its 100-mile length razed, had no choice.

They had to be cruel to be kind.

And the tears didn't stop flowing. Maybe the never will.

"They are shooting thousand upon thousand," islander and mayor Michael Pengilly told the Daily Drone.

"And then they are burying them. This is a very dark time for the island. And it will have repercussions for ever.

"There will, undoubtedly, be mental health problems here. We will need a lot of help. A generation has been so affected by this.

"What these farmers are having to do is beyond what any human should have to do. But you can't just watch your flocks, your friends for years, suffer."

I first went to Kangaroo Island (pop 4,702) 10 years ago. It was a world-rated haven for wildlife and farm produce, wool, honey.

I stayed at the Southern Ocean Lodge. Now a stinking pile of smouldering embers. Like the tourist centre nearby.

"We're on our knees now," said the mayor. He begged tourists "Please come back we need you."

The holiday-maker ferries from Adelaide were now working around the clock evacuating people from the growing fires.

Koalas weren't so lucky. Thirty thousand died. Kangaroos who gave their name to the island? Countless.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre