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Puffing Rangitoto distresses residents

Published: 12:20PM Thursday November 15, 2007 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

Some Auckland families were sent scrambling into survival mode following a publicity stunt by TV personality Marc Ellis on Thursday..

Ellis detonated 600 kilos of explosives on top of Rangitoto as part of an elaborate marketing ploy for his latest business venture.

"Stock standard crackers. We were hazard approved, went through that entire process to ensure we were certified to handle the safety was our absolute priority and not harming a tree on the island," says Ellis.

But from the shoreline anyone could be forgiven for thinking the smoking island was the beginning of a Civil Defence emergency.

"We were having breakfast and Annabel (daughter) said 'look, look out the window, Rangitoto's erupting'," says Madeline Hernon.

"I was really scared and I told everyone and mum just didn't believe me and then she looked and she saw that there was actually a thing and I got really scared," says Annabel.

Hernon took the situation seriously and began evacuating their family home.

But despite the stunt causing some distress to residents, Auckland police say they will not investigate because no complaint was made.

"I think it's morally irresponsible because it affects a hell of a lot of people. You know, there would have been elderly people who saw that who probably went into the same mode as myself," says Hernon.

The Department of Conservation has described the stunt as "demoralising and very disappointing".

DOC spokesperson Jonathan Miles says there is a total fire ban on the island because of ecological significance internationally.

Rangitoto has the largest pohutukawa forest in New Zealand.

Miles says Ellis did not get a permit to perform the stunt which could have had devastating consequences if a fire had been caused.

DOC is investigating Ellis and will now seek further legal advice on whether it can take the matter further.