FAQs

Fire Seasons

What is an open season?

An open season means that it is safe for you to light an outside fire without a permit – as long as you do so safely, keep it under control, put it out properly, and have permission from the relevant land owner or occupier.

However, if Fire and Emergency has prohibited the lighting of fires in open air in the area, you can’t light an outside fire even if the area is otherwise in an open season.

What is a fire in open air?

A fire in open air is essentially an outside fire.

Legally, it means any fire that is not:

  • in a fireplace in a building or structure, if that fireplace complies with the Building Act 2004 and the relevant district plan, or
  • in a place or thing authorised under regulations or by Fire and Emergency.

Find out more about fire types here.

Do I need a permit for an open air fire in an open season?

No. You can light a fire in open air without a fire permit – as long as you do so safely, keep it under control, put it out properly, and have permission from the relevant land owner or occupier.

You also need to comply with city/district and regional council burning restrictions, including requirements relating to smoke nuisance and controls under the Resource Management Act.

You will need to get a fire permit if Fire and Emergency prohibits the lighting of fires in open air in your area, even though the area is otherwise in an open season.

You can still go to Fire and Emergency New Zealand for fire safety advice, weather forecasts and risk reduction information.  Visit checkitsalright.nz or contact 0800 658 628 or firepermit.enquiries@fireandemergency.nz 

What are the different fire seasons?

Go to the season status definitions page to understand what each fire season means.

How do I know what the fire season is in my area?

Visit Fire and Emergency's fire permit website to check the current fire season in the location of your proposed fire. 

The fire season in my area is open except for coastal areas. How far from the coastline is considered to be a coastal area?

This will depend on the specific fire risks in your location and the fire plan for the local area. Visit Fire and Emergency's fire permit website to check if you need a permit in the location of your proposed fire.

When will the fire season change?

Fire seasons are changed depending on the weather and other conditions that heighten or lessen the risk of the outbreak or spread of fire. Fire seasons can change quickly, so always check before lighting.

Visit Fire and Emergency's fire permit website to check the current fire season in the location of your proposed fire.

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Lighting a fire

Do I need permission from the landowner or occupier to light a fire?

Yes. You need permission from the landowner or occupier to light a fire on their land. 

Can I light a fire on public conservation land?

There is an all year round restricted fire season on public conservation land. You will need approval from the Department of Conservation (DOC) Regional Director and a fire permit, except for:

  • A campfire lit in a permanent fireplace which has been positioned and constructed by DOC to minimise the threat of fire spread and is located within formally established DOC overnight campsites or day time amenity areas.
  • A cooking and warming fires lit in the backcountry of public conservation land and additional land (Backcountry is defined in the Recreational Opportunities Spectrum as being over one hour walking time from the nearest road end) that is not:

a) within 3.0 metres of any tree or any place underneath overhanging vegetation; and

b) within 3.0 metres of any log or any dry vegetation; and

c)  lit unless and until the ground surface within three metres of the site of the fire has been cleared of all combustible material; and

d)  lit where notices and advertising are present which specifically prohibit the lighting of fires or specify the lighting of fires only in other types of receptacles or places; and

e)  lit during a Prohibited Fire Season; and

f)  lit in conditions where wind or other factors may cause the fire to spread to surrounding flammable material.

  • A manufactured gas-operated appliance, such as a barbeque or outdoor gas-operated cookers.

 

During a prohibited fire season, or when fire has been prohibited in open air, you cannot light any fires on public conservation land without a fire permit, including the above authorised fire types.

Do I need to notify anyone before I light a fire?

You only need to notify Fire and Emergency before you light your fire if it’s a condition on your fire permit. However, as a courtesy you may like to notify neighbours, as they may be concerned about the fire or the smoke from the fire may impact them. You also need to consider the potential impact on nearby public spaces, like parks or roads.

Do I need a permit to light a fire inside?

No. Fire permits issued by Fire and Emergency are for fires in the open air.

Can I light an outside fire at night?

In general, it’s not a good idea to light big fires at night as they look bigger and more dangerous than during the day, so members of the public are more likely to be concerned. 

If a restricted or prohibited fire season has been declared, your permit may have conditions around the time of day you can light your fire.

What fires can I light in a restricted or prohibited season without a permit?

Fire and Emergency allows some types of fire to be lit in open air during restricted or prohibited seasons. You can find out more about these authorised fire types here.  

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Permits

What is a fire permit?

A fire permit allows you to light a fire in open air in a specified location during a restricted or prohibited fire season, or when a prohibition on fires in open air is in place . The permit will have conditions that you must follow, including as to where and when you can light your fire. 

It’s an offence to knowingly or recklessly light a fire without a fire permit during a restricted or prohibited fire season.

How do I know if I need a fire permit?

Your location, the fire season status, and the specific type of fire you want to light will determine if you need a fire permit. Visit Fire and Emergency’s fire permit website to check if you need to apply for a permit in the location of your proposed fire. 

Some authorised fire types may be allowed in your area without a permit during a restricted or prohibited fire season. If you are unsure, the permit application process will identify if you need a permit.

How do I apply for a fire permit?

Visit Fire and Emergency’s fire permit website to apply for a fire permit.

How long will it take for me to apply for a fire permit?

It should take you 5 to 10 minutes to apply for a fire permit.

You should receive your fire permit by email within 5 to 10 working days, depending if an onsite inspection is required.  Permits that need to be sent in the mail may take up to 5 working days longer.

How long do fire permits last for?

Your fire permit will have a start and end date on it – your location, the fire season status, and the specific type of fire you want to light will be taken into account when Fire and Emergency determines the length of it.

However, if Fire and Emergency declares a prohibited fire season or prohibits fire in open air, all permits issued in a restricted season will be automatically suspended, so you will no longer be able to light your proposed fire without getting a new permit or until the suspension is lifted.

What happens to my fire permit if the season changes from a restricted to prohibited season or if fire is prohibited in open air?

Your fire permit is automatically suspended if the season is changed to prohibited or if fire is prohibited in open air in your location.

You cannot light a fire in a prohibited season, or if fire has been prohibited in open air, unless you have obtained a new fire permit that responds to those controls.

How much will it cost me to get a fire permit?

There is no charge for a fire permit.

How long does my fire permit take to get to me?

If no onsite inspection is required, you should receive your fire permit by email within 5 working days. 

If an onsite inspection is required, you should receive your fire permit by email within 10 working days.  Permits that need to be sent in the mail may take up to 5 working days longer.

To avoid being delayed, plan and apply for your fire permit early.

You need to have your permit with you, in either paper or electronic form, from the time you start preparing your fire to the time it is put out.

Why does the process take so long? I used to get my fire permit immediately and need to light my proposed fire tomorrow.

Fire and Emergency needs to allow enough time to properly assess your application to help you light your proposed fire safely during a restricted or prohibited fire season, or when a prohibition on lighting fires in open air is in place. This is because the current weather or other fire risk conditions make it generally unsafe to light your fire. 

Fire and Emergency endeavours to respond to fire permit applications within 5 days for fires that don’t require an onsite inspection, and within 10 days for fires that do require an onsite inspection.

Does the fire permit have to be in the landowner name?

No. The permit needs to be in the name of the person lighting a fire; however, you will also need permission from the landowner or occupier before lighting your fire.

Why can’t I get a fire permit from my local council?

Councils no longer have the legal ability to declare fire seasons or to issue fire permits.

As of 1 July 2018, Fire and Emergency New Zealand declares fires seasons and issues fire permits in all locations (urban and rural). 

If Fire and Emergency grants me a fire permit, do I still have to comply with council requirements around things like smoke nuisance and regional council burning restrictions?

Yes. You still need to comply with city/district and regional council burning restrictions, including requirements relating to smoke nuisance and controls under the Resource Management Act, even if you are issued a fire permit by Fire and Emergency.

What do I do if I have a fire permit to burn one type of material, but I want to burn another material later in the year?

Your permit is only valid for the type of burn material identified on the fire permit.

Is it possible to get a fire permit for the entire year?

Yes. Permits may be issued for up to 5 years.

I want to have two fires on my property, do I need one or two permits?

You can fill in one application for different fire types/materials at multiple locations on a single property. Fire and Emergency will then either issue one permit, with different conditions for each location, or issue separate permits for each fire.

Do I need a permit for a very small fire?

There is no minimum or maximum size limit for fires in the open air.

Your location, the fire season status, and the specific type of fire you want to light will determine if you need a fire permit. Visit Fire and Emergency’s fire permit website to check if you need to apply for a permit. 

Can I burn if I have a fire permit pending?

No. You must have received the fire permit before you can light your fire.

What happens if I light a fire without a fire permit during a restricted or prohibited season?

It is an offence under the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017 to knowingly or recklessly light a fire in open air without a fire permit, if a restricted or prohibited season has been declared or if a prohibition on the lighting of fires in open air is in place in an area. 

If convicted of an offence, an individual could face up to 2 years in prison or a fine not exceeding $300,000, or both; in any other case the fine could be up to $600,000.

I have a fire permit that was approved before 1 July 2017, is it still valid?

Your fire permit may still be valid. Fire permits issued before 1 July 2017 under the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 are valid until they expire or are revoked by Fire and Emergency.

Why does my fire permit have a condition that says I can’t burn outside daylight hours?

This will generally be for two main reasons:

  1. There is a safety issue with monitoring a fire in the dark. If a fire outbreak occurred, it would pose increased safety risks for the public and emergency responders.
  2. Fires at night attract attention as they tend to look much bigger than they are. They are more likely to result in unnecessary emergency calls to 111 because it’s harder for people passing by to determine if the situation is safe.

Why do I need a fire permit to have a fire on the beach?

The fire season status will determine whether a permit is required. Visit Fire and Emergency’s fire permit website to check if you need to apply for a permit. It is important to note that local territorial authority /landowner rules vary around New Zealand.

If open fires are permitted it is strongly recommended to light the fire below the high tide mark.

Scrub-type vegetation that is commonly located by beaches is highly flammable and fires on beaches are more likely to get out of control due to wind changes throughout the day. Fires can also result in injury to the public if hot embers are left on a public beach and people with bare feet walk on them.

By controlling the location and imposing conditions on a fire, a fire permit helps to protect other members of the public and surrounding properties from the risk that the fire might get out of control and spread.

Visit Fire and Emergency’s fire permit website to check if you need to apply for a fire permit

How do I make a complaint to Fire and Emergency about fire permitting?

Go to the complaints and disputes section on the Fire and Emergency contacts page to lodge a complaint or notify us of a dispute..

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Other

How do I make a complaint about smoke from a fire?

If the smoke is causing a safety concern, such as smoke across the road, please call 111.

If your complaint is about a smoke nuisance from a neighbouring property, please call your city/district council or regional council’s pollution hotline.

My neighbour has lit a fire and I don’t think they have a permit, what should I do?

If you think there is an immediate danger, call 111.

Check your local fire season status on Fire and Emergency’s fire permit website; if it is an open season your neighbour will not need a fire permit.  

I think my neighbour’s property is a fire risk, who should I call?

As of 1 July 2018, Fire and Emergency has powers in relation to fire hazard removal. To lodge a complaint or get more information, visit https://fireandemergency.nz/at-home/overgrown-sections/.

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