Fire restrictions have been imposed across Northland as temperatures climb and vegetation becomes perilously dry.
The restricted fire season, which came into force at noon on Monday, means a permit will be required for all outdoor fires with the exception of barbecues and cooking fires such as hangi.
Unusually, the restrictions were brought in simultaneously across the Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara.
Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said the restrictions brought Northland into line with Auckland and Waikato, where permits were already required.
"We're noticing a rapid dry-out across the region, and we wanted to get processes in place before Christmas."
Mr Taylor urged anyone who wanted to light a fire to go to the website www.checkitsalright.nz, which offered information about obtaining a permit and current restrictions.
In other years restrictions have come into force as early as Labour Weekend in the Far North.
This summer will also be the first time new backyard burning rules, set by the Northland Regional Council, apply in Kerikeri.
A resource consent from the regional council is now required by anyone in the Kerikeri "airshed" — which corresponds to the town's main built-up areas — who wants to burn rubbish or vegetation 100m upwind or 50m in any other direction of a sensitive area, which usually means a house. Barbecues, hangi, umu and bonfires organised by community groups are exempt.
The new rules came into force on September 6 and bring Kerikeri into line with Whangarei, the only other area in Northland where backyard burning is restricted year-round.
Meanwhile the dry conditions have seen water restrictions put in place in parts of the Far North.
The Far North District Council is encouraging residents and businesses in Kerikeri and Kaitaia to save water, as treatment plants in both towns struggle to keep up with unusually high demand.
Daily water use in Kerikeri was a third higher than at the same time last year, and daily use in Kaitaia was up 15 per cent, general manager - infrastructure and asset management Andy Finch said, and the water treatment plants in both towns were reaching capacity.
Residents and businesses were being encouraged to conserve water now, before restrictions were needed, as a precautionary measure in anticipation of the "summer dry", which often coincided with the arrival of extra visitors to the district.
A sprinkler ban (Level 2 water restriction) took effect in the South Hokianga on December 1.