A total fire ban in Northland may not be necessary given a dramatic drop in callouts for rubbish and scrub fires since the start of the new year.

Senior fire officials were last week considering putting a total fire ban in place after a spate of scrub fires, including two in the mid and Far North, that racked up a six-figure sum to put out.

In the two weeks prior to New Year's Day, firefighters in the Far North district attended several scrub and rubbish fires, some lit without a permit.

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 to up to two years in prison or fined a maximum of $300,000, or both.

Advertisement

Principal rural fire officer Northland Myles Taylor said the trigger points for imposing a total fire ban have not been reached yet because things have quietened down a bit since the New Year. But, he said people must not light open fires without a permit because conditions were still very dry.

"There's been no callouts since the New Year period and whether that's due to holidaymakers going back home, I can't pinpoint a reason, but it's not as bad as it was.

"We monitor the situation daily and there's not enough pressure on our volunteers as there used to be during the festive season."

A total fire ban may not be declared in Northland as there's been a drop in callouts for rubbish and scrub fires since the New Year. Photo/Supplied
A total fire ban may not be declared in Northland as there's been a drop in callouts for rubbish and scrub fires since the New Year. Photo/Supplied

Taylor would not be drawn on why Fire and Emergency New Zealand was not prosecuting people despite clear evidence of open fires being lit without a permit.

"Anything that's considered liable for prosecution goes to our legal team. It's not our role to go prosecuting people. That decision is made by those in Wellington," he said.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand did not respond to written questions on the issue by edition time.

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. Before 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.

In Whang─ürei, firefighters were called to put out a rubbish fire that was lit outside a house in Parua Bay without a permit on December 29. The person responsible for the fire was spoken to but no action taken.