The Department of Conservation is taking the unusual step of declaring a total fire ban across its Hawke's Bay regional parks for the first time in 12 years.

DoC and the Hastings District Council have jointly decided on a fire ban, which will come into force tomorrow.

DoC programme manager Barbara Curtis said the department was keen to announce the ban alongside the Hastings council and Central Hawke's Bay District Council.

"Despite quite a wet winter, it has turned into a dry and windy summer. By all going into a prohibited fire season (total ban) together, it will take some of the confusion out of the situation for the public."


Mrs Curtis said all DoC-managed land in Hawke's Bay would be included in the total fire ban. There would be signs put up over the next week to inform the public of the rules around the ban.

The last time Doc initiated a total fire ban was in 2000, following three years of dry weather with little rain. At the time, civic water fountains and attractions around Napier and Hastings were turned off to save water.

"It has become very dry, very quickly," Mrs Curtis said. "So we are asking people to be very vigilant when they are around rural areas and remind that only gas barbecues can be used during the ban."

On Friday from 8am, no fires in the open air will be permitted and strict penalties will apply for people who light or cause fires, the Hastings council said.

Principal Rural Fire Officer, Trevor Mitchell said all fire risk indicators had "reached extreme" and were tracking well above last summer and in line with the drought of 1997.

"There was little rain in the long range forecasts and conditions have become so volatile that just a spark could cause a devastating blaze," Mr Mitchell said. "We are asking anyone working or travelling through our region to take extreme care.

"People must not throw cigarette butts out vehicle windows, as the vegetation on the roadside has become tinder dry and could easily ignite. Lighting bonfires at the beach, fireworks, solid fuel barbecues and traditional cooking fires were also banned."

Gas barbecues and properly constructed fire boxes such as pizza ovens were permitted but care was still required.


Rural firefighters were called to 11 fires during a five-day period in early December but a couple of cooler days in the past week had provided some reprieve.

Mr Mitchell said fires starting in those conditions had the potential to spread very quickly, endangering lives and property and making them very challenging to control.