Kaitaia woman Coral Cornwall is so concerned at the fire risk posed by an overgrown neighbouring property, she worries when she sees people smoking cigarettes as they walk past.

But a principal rural fire officer said a property with long grass and a derelict house was not necessarily a fire risk.

Mrs Cornwall said she had reported her concerns to the Far North District Council a number of times, and to councillor Colin Kitchen, who was also a senior member of the Kaitaia Fire Brigade.

Mr Kitchen shared Mrs Cornwall's view that the property on Farrimond Place was a distinct fire risk.


"I went around to have a look. It's overgrown to hell and there's an old house," he said.
"There could be squatters in there — that's my big, big concern."

Mr Kitchen said he was disappointed the council had not responded but he hoped fire officers would assess the property.

"My professional opinion is that something's got to be done about it."

However, responsibility for removing fire hazards shifted to Fire and Emergency NZ when it was formed last year.

Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor admitted Fire and Emergency had a backlog of requests about potential fire hazards. A contractor was starting next week to assess the applications.

If a property was found to be a fire hazard, Fire and Emergency could compel a landowner to reduce the risk, such as mowing a strip of grass around the property's border.

But Mr Taylor said the threshold for what constitutes a fire risk was very high and it was a complex issue.

"It includes the opportunity for loss of life or loss of property; the likelihood of ignition," he said. "A section full of long grass does not necessarily constitute a fire hazard."


The fact Kaitaia Fire Brigade was close to the Farrimond Place property made it less of a hazard, he said. The benign weather conditions also lessoned the risk.

Mrs Cornwall said the house had been empty for a considerable time.