Up to 100 Kiwi firefighters could be sent to help battle Victoria's killer bushfires, but authorities here say New Zealand's own high fire risk may restrict their contribution.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday accepted an offer of manpower from New Zealand as the death toll from his country's worst natural disaster topped 130.
But Prime Minister John Key said it would likely be a week or two before the offer was taken up, as Australia still had adequate back-up for its weary Victorian firefighters.
"We are standing ready, willing and able to support them immediately. We think New Zealanders will rally to what is devastating circumstances in Australia," Mr Key said.
"I think if the position was reversed, we would see an outpouring of support from Australians to New Zealand," the Prime Minister said.
What shape New Zealand's contribution will take is yet to be established, as rural fire authorities wait to hear what gaps most need filling.
"Once they have defined what they need, they can then put that into their planning process, and when we do send people over there after a day's induction they can be put straight into the field," said National Rural Fire Officer Murray Dudfield.
They would likely be firefighters from the national register working with local government, the Department of Conservation and the forestry sector, and might include supervisors, aircraft managers and fire behaviour specialists.
Mr Dudfield emphasised that the high fire danger in many parts of New Zealand had to be the priority, and sufficient numbers had to be maintained in those areas.
"We would be looking to where we can release people. In some locations we won't be able to, and in others we will.
"If New Zealand continues to dry out, we may be a little restricted. But at the moment I feel we have a capability that we can help our Australian colleagues, and I think we should be providing the support where we can."
Mr Key said: "We are comfortable that the contingent we would send ... would not leave us exposed. If there was fires in New Zealand, we would be in a position to combat them."
Any firefighters sent to Australia, even if volunteers, would have all their costs covered.
Finding people willing to go to such deployments was usually not a problem, Mr Dudfield said.
Once the people were picked, they could be in Australia within 48 hours.
"It's amazing. People make a commitment and will do everything they can to meet those timelines."