Rural fire

Fire seasons

Open – generally most of the year with no fire restrictions (other than the special DOC or Forest areas plus fire margins). Permits to light fires in the open are not necessary. Common-sense rules still apply: Fires should not be lit in dangerous situations or conditions; Remain in attendance until the fire is out; ensure that the fire is out before leaving. The lighter of the fire is responsible for any damage, or costs incurred to extinguish it. The lighter has a 'duty of care' to their neighbours and a responsibility to prevent the spread of fire.

Restricted – declared when weather conditions make lighting fires in the open dangerous. A fire permit or authority is required to light a fire in the open during a restricted fire season.

Prohibited - declared where extreme weather and high fire danger conditions exist. This is a 'Total Fire Ban'; no permits to light fires in the open will be issued. 'Special Permits' may be considered.

Year-round fire restrictions are in force within 1 km of a Department of Conservation Estate and Forest Areas. Permits from either DOC or the Ashley Rural Fire Committee are required all year round.

See the Environment Canterbury website for information on outdoor burning, smoke nuisance and rules governing discharges to air.

Establish the current fire season status

  • When conditions warrant, fire restrictions or a total fire ban are declared. Notices will be published setting out the dates and provisions of the fire control measures.
  • Fire Danger Indicator boards are located at strategic locations throughout the region to advise the public of current local fire danger status.
  • No person shall light a fire until the current fire season status has been ascertained.
  • Ignorance of the current fire season status is no defence against the consequences of an illegally lit fire.
  • For further information phone Customer Services on 03 311 8900.

Interpretation: 'Open Air' in relation to fire means other than in a fireplace, gas barbecue or other receptacle as may from time to time be authorised by the Fire Authority.

Fire permits

Fire permits are required during a restricted fire season and are issued by a Council Rural Fire Officer. Permits are not valid until signed by the permit holder. Fire sites will be inspected by a Rural Fire Officer prior to a permitted fire being lit. There is currently no charge for fire permits.

Fire permits apply only for the dates noted on the permit. If plans change a new permit is required. Permits may be cancelled if conditions deteriorate or fire fighting resources are tied up at a fire.

Fire permits are issued subject to the conditions listed on the permit form and attached sheet and apply to daylight hours only. Additional conditions may be imposed by a Rural Fire Officer.

Permits for larger scrub clearing fires, or clean-ups after logging must be issued by the Principal Rural Fire Officer and additional planning and conditions may apply. Conditions are listed in the document Conditions applying to fires in the open air.

Fires on the beach

Fires are not permitted at the beach at any time unless a fire permit is obtained from the relevant authority. For further information or to obtain a permit, phone Council's Customer Services on 03 311 8900.


Fireworks are considered to be fires in the open and the same conditions apply to fireworks as to other fires in the open. Ensure that fireworks are let off in an area clear of vegetation and that a water supply is available.

Solid fuel barbecues and braziers (including ethnic cooking fires)

Solid fuel (e.g. charcoal) barbecues, braziers and ethnic cooking fires like a hangi or umu are fires in the open and require a permit in a restricted fire season. These fires may not be lit in a prohibited fire season.

Gas operated barbecues

Gas barbecues may be lit without a permit during any fire season, although extreme care should be taken during periods of high fire danger.

Fires in a drum or incinerator (rural areas only)

Fires in a fully enclosed drum or incinerator are not considered to be fires in the open and a permit is not required to light these fires during a restricted fire season. However you must notify the Council of your intention to burn on a particular day - phone Customer Services on 03 311 8900.

Fires in open drums, other open containers and fires in pits in the ground are considered to be fires in the open.

During a restricted fire season, fires in an open drum do require a separate permit from the Council for each burn.

In a restricted fire season, fires in other open containers or in pits in the ground require a fire permit.

Crop residue (stubble) burning

Stubble fires are covered by a seasonal permit. This means that a new permit is not required for each burn.

Any person intending to burn stubble should register with the Council at the start of a restricted fire season, prior to any stubble burning.

Stubble fires must not be lit until the lighter of the fire has been issued a Seasonal Permit by a Rural Fire Officer and has read and understood the conditions in the document Conditions applying to fires in the open air.


The lighter or 'owner' of any fire in a rural area could be liable for fire fighting costs if the fire gets out of control.

Any person intending to light a fire, or who may find themselves in a position of responsibility for a fire should contact their insurance company with respect to cover for damage caused by fire and fire fighting costs.

The Council encourages all residents living outside the urban fire districts to talk to their insurance company regarding cover for the costs of fighting fires.

For more information call Council Customer Services on 03 311 8900 or 03 327 6834.