Lighting fires on public conservation land
IntroductionFind out when and where you can light fires at huts, campsites and in the backcountry on public conservation land.
On public conservation land, you must not light any fires:
- where there is a restricted fire season in place
- during a prohibited fire season (fire ban), or
- where signs say fires are not permitted.
The only exception is the fireplaces inside DOC huts which you can use any time.
At other times, you can only light fires in certain places and you must follow the specific conditions below.
Visit Check it's alright before lighting a fire to check it's safe, and get advice on reducing fire risks.
You can use the permanent fireplaces inside DOC huts at any time.
At campsites, only light fires in designated fireplaces and when there is no fire ban.
You can light campfires at DOC campsites or day amenity areas only if:
- there is no fire ban in place, and
- you use the designated fire places/fire pits.
Only some campsites and amenity areas have designated fire places/fire pits. During a fire ban these facilities are not available to use.
The "backcountry" refers to areas that are over an hour's walk from the nearest road end.
You can light campfires in the backcountry only if:
- there is no fire ban in place, and
- there are no notices prohibiting fires there, and
- the fire is at least 3 metres away from trees and anything that could catch fire, and
- the fire is smaller than 0.5 m in width and in height.
Backcountry fires must be under 0.5 m in size and have 3 metres of clear space around it
Some vegetation types are inherently prone to burning regardless of season. Be careful lighting around long grass, manuka, gorse and tussockland.
Portable fireplaces or stoves using solid fuel such as wood, pellets, charcoal or coal are not permitted on public conservation land. The incorrect disposal of ashes could cause fires..
Fires are banned all year in some areas, and during a "Prohibited fire season" in others.
Some areas have a year-round total fire ban. This restriction doesn't change, so you can not light fires regardless of the fire seasons. Check the DOC website or the local visitor centre.
For other areas, fires are banned during a Prohibited fire season. This status is determined by Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ).
Check the fire season at FENZ:
- Use the Can I light a fire? tool.
- Choose "Campfires".
- Specify where and when you intend to light the fire.
- The fire season status will display.
- If it's "Prohibited", that means there is a fire ban. You can't light any fires.
- If it's "Restricted", you can only light fires on public conservation land according to the conditions on this page.
There are three fire seasons as set by Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ). They are Restricted, Prohibited, and Open.
While the three apply to all lands, public conservation land is always in a Restricted or Prohibited fire season:
- Restricted fire season – means you may light fires at a campsite's designated fire place, and in the backcountry according to the specific conditions.
- Prohibited fire season – means there is a fire ban and you can not light any fires on public conservation land (you can still use fireplaces inside DOC huts).
The Open fire season does not apply to public conservation land at any time of the year.
On public conservation land you can usually use gas burners and enclosed liquid fuel stoves for cooking any time.
However, you can't use open topped liquid fuel cookers, for example fish smokers using methylated spirits.
During a fire ban, you should take extra care to minimise the risks of fire.
Extinguish the campfire with lots of water. If there’s no water around, use dirt to put out the embers. Don’t bury your campfire ashes – the embers could smoulder and reignite.
Give your gas cooker time to cool down completely before moving it or putting it away in your tent, hut, pack or vehicle.
On public conservation land, you can not light any other types of fire (including bonfires, charcoal bbqs, umu/hangi fires, and fireworks) unless you have a permit from FENZ.
Permits in these cases are usually not granted.
If you see a fire or smoke, go back the way you came preferably downhill or across slope. Fire moves faster going uphill. Avoid hilltops, ridgelines and areas of fine fuel like grass, manuka, gorse etc as fire moves very fast through these fuels.
If you find yourself trapped by fire, sheltering in place should only be a very last resort. If you have no choice, find a clearing or road. In clear areas there is less for the fire to burn. If you have time remove as much flammable material around you as possible.
Radiant heat is the big killer. Find a big rock or bank to hide behind. You could also shelter in a hollow/hole in the ground or behind a fallen log.
Find water, such as a lake, stream, river or the sea. Crouch or lie in the water if you can safely do so, but do not go into areas that are too deep or fast flowing.
Prepare for the fire to pass you. Stay low to the ground and cover your skin with dirt, cotton/woollen clothing, or any solid object to protect yourself from radiant heat if you can. Drink water and cover your mouth with a damp cloth.When the fire has passed, wait in a burnt area until help arrives or until it is safe to leave.