Restricted and Prohibited Fire Seasons are now in place for most areas of New Zealand. Read more.

Fire seasons and fire permits

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Fire seasons and fire permits

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

  • what the current fire season is for your area, and
  • whether you need a fire permit.

What are the fire seasons?

Fire and Emergency has three types of fire season:

  • Open: During an Open fire season, you don’t need a permit from Fire and Emergency to light a fire in open air. You need the permission of the landowner and you’re still responsible for damage the fire causes.
  • Restricted: During a Restricted fire season, you must not light a fire in open air unless you have a permit from Fire and Emergency, and you comply with the conditions of the permit. Before you light, you must check to make sure that a Prohibited fire season status has not been declared.
  • Prohibited: During a Prohibited fire season, you must not light a fire in open air unless you have a permit from Fire and Emergency, and you comply with the conditions of the permit. Fire and Emergency can only grant a permit during a Prohibited fire season if:
    • It considers that the permit is necessary to prevent, reduce, or overcome any hazard to life or because of any other serious emergency, or
    • Weather or other conditions have temporarily reduced the fire hazard so as to make it apparently safe to light a fire.

You must comply with the conditions of the permit.

No matter what the fire season is, you still need to comply with any Council bylaws and Regional Council requirements relating to smoke nuisance and discharges to the air, even if you are issued with a fire permit from Fire and Emergency.

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

What is fire in open air?

A fire in open air is a fire lit outdoors. You’re lighting a fire in open air if you have a:

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

There are some exceptions though, and this can vary across different areas. For example, types of fire which have been authorised as not being fires in open air (and therefore don’t need a permit in a Restricted or Prohibited fire season) might include enclosed gas barbeques, charcoal barbeques, approved incinerators, permanent outdoor fireplaces, cultural fires, e.g. hangi or umu. However, if you’re not sure whether the fire you want to light requires a permit you need to check.

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

About fire permits 

A fire permit allows you to light a fire in open air in a specific location in a Restricted or Prohibited fire season. There will be conditions on the permit about where and when you can light a fire. You must comply with these conditions.

It’s an offence to light an open fire without a fire permit during a Restricted or Prohibited fire season.

If you have a fire permit and the fire season is changed to Prohibited, your permit is suspended. You can’t light fires in open air if it’s a Prohibited fire season (unless you get a permit from Fire and Emergency, and these can only be granted in limited circumstances, see What are the fire seasons? section above).

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

Applying for a fire permit

If you live in an area that is mainly used for residential, industrial or commercial purposes, you may need to apply for an urban fire permit from Fire and Emergency or your council. If you live in a rural area you may need to apply for a rural fire permit from Fire and Emergency.

If you are unsure whether your address falls within a rural or urban area (and whether you need to apply to Fire and Emergency or your council), you can:

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

Fire permits in rural areas

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

In the past, you applied to your Rural Fire Authority for a rural fire permit. We’re currently reviewing the fire permitting system and this may no longer be the case in your area.

Fire permits in urban areas

For urban areas where fire seasons have not yet been put in place by Fire and Emergency, you will be directed to your council to determine whether a fire permit is needed from the council under its bylaws.

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

Apply for a rural or urban fire permit at Check It’s Alright.