Fire restrictions are coming into force across the Far North next week as wind and sunshine dry out vegetation and increase the fire risk.
People lighting outdoor fires need permits year-round in the most fire-prone areas of the Far North - the Aupouri and Karikari peninsulas and coastal areas near Kaitaia - but the Northern Rural Fire Authority is expanding the restricted fire season to the rest of the district from December 10.
From that date, the only fires allowed outdoors without a permit will be gas barbecues, hangi, cultural cooking fires, wood-fired barbecues and braziers. Those will be allowed in places clear of vegetation and buildings as long as the wind is less than 15km/h, an adult is present at all times and a supply of water is available to put out the fire.
Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said the underlying fire danger had been increasing steadily despite occasional rain.
"We're getting a lot of fuel growth. It only takes a little wind, which we've been getting plenty of, and a few dry days and suddenly we're into the danger zone."
The authority had held back from a total fire ban so far but would review the fire season status if the weather became hotter and drier.
"Our simple message is, if you can't control it, don't light it."
Mr Taylor said people who ignored fire restrictions or fire safety advice risked fines and a hefty bill for firefighting costs.
A small burn-off at Horeke last summer spread into a pine forest and cost $650,000 to put out. Fire authorities are planning to throw the book at offenders this summer.
Permit application forms are available from www.havingafire.org.nz, Juken NZ, Aupouri Forest headquarters, DoC's Kaitaia and Bay of Islands offices, or Far North District Council service centres (0800 920 029 or 09 401 5200) during office hours. Applicants should allow up to 72 hours.