Those responsible for lighting rubbish and scrub fires in Northland without a permit may get off the hook as firefighters and officials prefer education over prosecution.

Despite a spate of fires over the festive season particularly in the Far North, no one has been taken to task despite Fire and Emergency New Zealand racking up a bill of more than $200,000 to put them out.

Some fires put out by volunteer firefighters were lit without a permit.

One fire was lit by a person burning rubbish outside a house in Parua Bay on December 29.


Firefighters from Whangārei Heads attended that callout, spoke to the man responsible for it, but decided against prosecuting him.

A restricted fire season is currently in place and a person convicted of lighting a fire in open air without a permit can be sentenced for up to two years in prison or liable to pay a maximum fine of $300,000 or both.

A spokesman for Fire and Emergency New Zealand said in general, compliance and enforcement offered an opportunity for it to educate and inform the public first, on the basis that most people willingly conformed.

"We are concentrating our efforts on removing barriers to compliance and strengthening education, information and engagement to reduce the risk of unwanted fires.

"However, we recognise not everyone follows the rules, and the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017, gives us powers to issue infringement notices, fines and ultimately prosecute where appropriate.

"Each incident is assessed on a case by case basis," he said.

The Northern Advocate has filed an Official Information (OIA) request regarding the number of callouts for rubbish and scrub fires in Northland since the restricted fire season started on December 1, 2018 until New Year's Day.

A reduction in callouts for rubbish fires since New Year's Day may not necessitate the imposition of a total fire ban which senior fire officials were last week considering.

The last major scrub fire that burnt one hectare of scrub in Taipa last week was put out at a cost of about $20,000.

Prior to that, about $200,000 was spent fighting a large scrub fire that burnt for four days south of Kaikohe before it was temporarily brought under control two weeks ago.

Four helicopters, two bulldozers and 25 rural firefighters battled the fire that burnt between 60ha and 100ha of bush at Pipiwai Rd in Matawaia.