Firefighters were called to Tauranga Airport at first light today after a fire was seen burning in the area.

The call came in at 7.13am.

Fire Northern Communications shift manager Colin Underdown said reports had come in that a smoke coukld be seen billowing from the area of the western end of the airport, near the water's edge.

This turned out to be a controlled rubbish fire, which had a permit until 10am, Mr Underdown said.

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Air New Zealand staff told a reporter at the scene the incident was a training exercise.

The New Zealand Fire Service was not aware of this.