Rural fire seasons and rural fire permits

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Rural fire seasons and rural fire permits

If you want to light a fire in the open air, you need to:

  • check if you are located in a Rural Fire District
  • determine what the current fire season is
  • find out whether you need a rural fire permit

If you are unsure whether your address falls within rural or urban boundaries, you can:

  • ask your local council, or
  • search for your location on the Check It's Alright website and send your query to the fire permit district email address.

There are three fire seasons: 

  • Open: During an Open fire season, you don't need a permit to light a fire in the open air. You must have the permission of the landowner and you're still responsible for any damage the fire causes.

  • Restricted: During a Restricted fire season, you need a fire permit to light a fire in the open air.

  • Prohibited: During a Prohibited fire season, you can't light a fire in the open air - unless approval has been given by Fire and Emergency NZ. It's illegal to light a fire, as the danger of that fire escaping is high.

You can check the fire season in your region using the website.

Some regions may have a 'Split' fire season. This means that one part of the region has a different fire season status to another part of the region. When this happens, you should contact your local Fire and Emergency New Zealand area office.

What counts as an open fire?

An fire in the open air is just about any fire lit outdoors, other than in a gas barbeque.

You're lighting a fire in the open if you have a: 

  • Campfire
  • Bonfire
  • Cooking fire
  • Brazier
  • Hangi, Lovo or Umu
  • Rubbish fire
  • Controlled burn
  • Prescribed burn

There are exceptions. For example, gas fires do not require a permit. However, if you're not sure whether the fire you're lighting requires a permit - check!

Contact us using our general enquiries form and we'll tell you whether you need a permit.

About fire permits 

A rural fire permit allows you to light a fire in the open air in a specific place in a Restricted or Prohibited rural fire season. There are specific conditions on the permit that govern where and when you can light a fire. It doesn't give you the right to light a fire whenever, or wherever you want. 

It's an offence to light an open fire without a rural fire permit during a Restricted or Prohibited rural fire season. If you do not have a permit and light a fire, you can be charged under the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017

If you have a rural fire permit and the fire season is changed to Prohibited, your permit suspended. You can't light open fires if it's a Prohibited fire season (except under special circumstances).


If an authorised person from Fire and Emergency NZ or a member of the Police asks you to produce a rural fire permit, you must do so within a reasonable time. If you don't, this is considered an offence.

Applying for a fire permit

The process of applying for a rural fire permit has changed.

In the past, you were required to contact your local Rural Fire Authority to apply for a fire permit. We're currently reviewing the fire permitting system and this may no longer be the case in your area. 

For more information, see our guide to applying for a fire permit

Apply via the Check It's Alright website.