Fire bosses are revisiting all 80 illegal fires lit across Northland since fire restrictions were imposed in December as scorching weather and a sky-high fire risk look set to continue.

The new measure comes amid continuing dry weather with no serious rain in sight, and a massive fire in the South Island's Tasman District which forced the evacuation of about 3000 people from 1000 homes. Evacuees started returning home on Monday evening.

Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said Fire and Emergency NZ had contracted a compliance officer to visit the site of every one of the 80 unpermitted fires lit since restrictions were imposed across Northland on December 11. That was raised to a total fire ban from January 29.

The officer would identify what kind of action could be taken in each case, Taylor said.


''We're taking it very seriously, we're not just going to walk away from it. We will review every single file.''

Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor. Photo / file
Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor. Photo / file

One of the biggest fires so far this summer ripped through 65ha of scrub and pine forest off Giles Rd at Horeke. It started on January 25 and has yet to be fully extinguished with regular patrols checking for hotspots.

Another fire in December covered up to 100ha at Pipiwai Rd, near Matawaia.

Potentially the most damaging blaze in terms of property broke out at 1.30am on Friday at Ahipara and forced the evacuation of half a dozen homes on Gumfields Rd.

A bach and a shed were destroyed with flames coming to within a few metres of some homes, burning the deck of one house.

Both the Horeke and Ahipara fires were thought to have been deliberately lit, Taylor said.

Locals had been providing investigators with useful tips about who might have been responsible for the Ahipara fire, but anyone else with information who had not yet spoken to authorities was urged to call (09) 401 0723 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

The weather is unlikely to provide relief for stretched firefighters any time soon.


MetService meteorologist Rob Kerr said there was no significant rain on the horizon for Northland for at least the next week.

Kaitaia received a tiny 1.5mm yesterday morning and a few isolated showers around the district were possible on Sunday, but there was no prospect of serious rain as far ahead as he was able to predict.

Taylor said he knew the identity of the boatie whose fireworks had ignited a small island off Moturua Island on January 23.

Fire authorities would catch up with him once the current spate of wildfires had been dealt with.

Had the wind been blowing the other way the flames would have leapt a small gap to Moturua Island and may have been impossible to stop, he said.

Moturua Island is home to endangered birds and a major ecological restoration project so the result could have been disastrous.

Meanwhile, a 25-year-old Kerikeri man has been charged with arson in relation to a January 19 blaze at Rangihoua Heritage Park on the Purerua Peninsula. He is due back in Kaikohe District Court on February 26.

It is believed the fire started when a home-made incendiary bomb exploded on the beach.
The arson charge he faces is punishable by up to seven years' jail. The maximum penalty for breaching a fire ban is a fine of $300,000 or two years' jail.