31 Dec 2017

Dry conditions prompt fire bans for NYE

6:17 am on 31 December 2017

Firefighters are urging New Years Eve partygoers to think twice before lighting anything up tonight.

Dry Southland pasture

Dry Southland pasture. Photo: Southland Regional Council

Many areas around New Zealand are experiencing extremely dry conditions, and rain forecast for much of the country on New Years Eve may do little to keep fires at bay.

Southern Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) shift manager Andrew Norris said most of the South Island had a total fire ban and only those with a permit were allowed to start an outdoor fire.

Permits would also be needed in Northland and Wellington.

Mr Norris said some areas may allow barbecues but people should forget about starting a spontaneous bonfire on the beach.

"Some organised activities may already have those permits in place and there may be some places where you can have a barbecue, but legally you're not allowed to have [a bonfire] at this time of year."

He said although fireworks were not included in the ban, but if they caused a fire the person who lit them could be held liable.

"Fireworks is a bit of a different kettle of fish," he said.

"Although it's not advisable to let off fireworks in very dry areas it's not unlawful to do so, however any fire you cause you are accountable for so discretion must come to the fore when it comes to fireworks and things like that at this time of year."

Mr Norris said no extra crews would be on hand to see in the new year, so encouraged people to be sensible.

"We'll have no extra crews available tomorrow night unless it's a pre-arranged special event - in which case there may be crews onsite at different venues - but my understanding is it'll be normal crews and normal manning, the majority of which around the country is volunteer crews in the small townships."

A central district Fire and Emergency spokesperson also said any fire in a rural area needed a permit

The spokesperson said some urban areas may not need a permit, as local councils are currently in the process of handing over the responsibility of issuing urban permits to FENZ.

However, if people were unsure they should check with their local council or visit [www.checkitsalright.nz the website].

They said people who had been issued a fire permit by FENZ still needed to comply with local and regional council bylaws.

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