Fire danger increasing in Canterbury

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Dec 20, 2023 |

As summer starts to take hold across Mid-South Canterbury, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is declaring further fire season changes across the District.

The Mackenzie Basin, which moved into a restricted season last week, will move into a prohibited season at 8am on Thursday, 21 November, until further notice.

This means a ban on open-air fires in the area. The area is also under a temporary fireworks ban until 31 March, 2024.

In addition, Fire and Emergency Mid-South Canterbury District Manager Rob Hands is declaring a restricted fire season in the Hakataramea Valley, Rangitata, Ashburton and Rakia Gorge zones at 8am on Thursday, 21 November, until further notice.

This means anyone wanting to light an open-air fire will need a permit to do so. You can apply for a permit at

“With the arrival of summer, the weather is rapidly getting warmer, leading to vegetation drying out and the fire danger increasing,” Rob Hands says.

“We’ve already seen the effects of this on 15 December when a fire at Station Peak near Hakataramea escaped from a controlled burn and took 10 fire trucks and tankers, as well as three helicopters, to extinguish.

“By entering a restricted fire season, everyone will now need a permit to light a fire and complete a burn. This gives our local team more input and oversight of any fire activity taking place and enables us to give fire safety advice to anyone completing a burn.”

Wildfire is an ever-present hazard in the Mackenzie District because of its dry and windy climate, the natural vegetation and its topography. The move to a prohibited season has been done to try to prevent any man-made wildfires from occurring. 98 per cent of wildfires in New Zealand are started by people.

“You don’t have to look far to see just how quickly a fire can spread and how devastating the consequences can be,” Rob Hands says.

“Memories of Lake Ōhau are still fresh around here, and the Pukaki Downs fire in September brought it home again, but we’re also aiming to get the message through to all the people who holiday in the Mackenzie Basin.

“It only takes one spark to start a wildfire. People should always be aware of any activity that might cause a spark – even mowing carries a fire risk because if the mower hits a stone and causes a spark, this can turn into a wildfire,” he says.

“Always check to check it’s safe to mow or carry out any potential spark-generating activities.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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