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Firefighters are on tenterhooks across several regions of the country as the Big Dry sets in. A growing number of regions are putting total fire bans in place, immediately cancelling all existing fire permits and placing fire authorities on high alert. Pumicelands Rural Fire Authority in the central North Island today cancelled all fire permits in the Western Bay of Plenty. The massive Pumicelands region covers approximately 2.35 million ha of rural and forest areas in the Bay of Plenty, Taupo and South Waikato. Principal rural fire officer, Alan Pearce, said a short burst of rain at the weekend was not enough to reduce the fire risk. "Waihi Beach and all land from the lower Kaimai [Ranges], Papamoa and Pukehina hills to the coast is now bone-dry," said Pearce. "Weather stations are indicating that the rainfall at the weekend has basically evaporated and rain predicted later this week is unlikely to alleviate the drought." From today, all fire permits in the Western Bay of Plenty District and rural Tauranga areas are cancelled. All the islands of the Hauraki Gulf are in a prohibited fire season and the mainland of Auckland is in a restricted fire season. A total fire ban is in place on the Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains. Last weekend, the Rotorua Lakes Council restricted rural fires until at least Monday because of the dry weather. New fire permits would still be issued but the no-burn restriction will remain in place until further notice. On January 11, the Whangarei and Kaipara districts were added to the fire ban already on in the Far North. Lighting any fire is illegal throughout Northland, indefinitely. The total ban, which includes Department of Conservation land, would remain in place until further notice. Hawke's Bay is on the brink of declaring a drought. A total fire ban was declared last Wednesday for the whole of the East Coast, from Central Hawke's Bay to the top of East Cape. Because of the "exceptionally dry conditions", fire authorities imposed a total fire ban, which came into effect at 8am on Saturday. Unless authorised by the principal rural fire officer, open air fires were not permitted under any circumstances. The ban includes incinerators, traditional cooking fires (such as hangi and umu), solid-fuel barbecues, braziers, pizza ovens, chiminea, camp fires and fireworks. Hawke's Bay Regional Council climate scientist Kathleen Kozyniak said soil moisture was continuing to drop as the rainfall for November and December was well below the average. "We've only had a wet day or two in December and early January, which haven't made any difference, and no significant rain is expected in the near future," Kozyniak said. Niwa climate scientist Ben Noll said the chance of any significant rainfall and relief during the next 10 days was very low. Water restrictions are in place or conservation measures are being recommended across the region. In Central Hawke's Bay, as of December 20, hose restrictions had been enforced for Waipukurau, Waipawa, Otane, Takapau, Porangahau and Te Paerahi. In these areas consumers were asked to only use hand hoses on alternate days for watering gardens and lawns, and advised to water in the early morning or evening. As of today a full water ban was in force at Kairakau, where water use is restricted to domestic purposes only. It was prohibited to wash properties, cars or boats, water gardens or lawns, or fill tanks and pools. In Napier, the council last week called for people to start conserving water in the wake of the hot temperatures, and pumps struggling to keep up with re-filling the reservoirs. In the Hastings district, a level 3 water restriction remains in place for Hastings, Flaxmere, Bridge Pa and Havelock North. This meant a total ban on sprinklers but residents could use hand-held hoses to water their gardens every second day, between 6am and 8am, and 7pm and 9pm. The National Rural Fire Service has this week launched a website to immediately update on the status of fire restrictions. Check It's Alright has a searchable option to check restrictions by island, region or fire authority. The Marlborough District Council region and the central zone of Otago are also under a total fire ban. Permits are required for fires in the open air in the Wellington and Wairarapa rural fire authorities, and in Waimea and the West Coast of the South Island. Fire prohibition breaches have already kept fire crews around Northland busy. At 11.30am on Satuday, the Kerikeri Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to a small rubbish fire in Waipapa, and the Ruakaka Volunteer Fire Brigade were called to a 3m by 4m gorse fire outside Gas Ruakaka on Port Marsden Highway about 11pm. A 20-year-old Kaipara man appeared in the Whangarei District Court on Saturday on one charge of arson after a recent fire at Kelly's Bay. Northland District Police said several recent fires in the Pouto area are being investigated. Breaches have also caused havoc in the south. A destructive wildfire that cut off an Otago community and stranded scores of motorists started at a campsite on the shores of Lake Wakatipu last week. About 150ha of native scrub was destroyed.