Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Fire fines warning for Northland

Northlanders are being asked to follow the rules or risk fines and other penalties as the spring burning season looms.

Northland Regional Council’s Compliance Monitoring Manager, Tess Dacre says in a typical year roughly a quarter of all calls to Council’s 24/7 environmental hotline involve complaints about burning and/or associated smoke nuisance.

“Burning unwanted vegetation and other waste material typically increases during spring because as the weather improves, people are keen to start tidying up their properties ahead of the warmer summer months,” says Ms Dacre.

“Those breaching the rules are liable for enforcement action which can range from instant fines of up to $1000, abatement notices and prosecution – the latter with the risk of much stiffer penalties – through the courts.”

Historically, the council had preferred to educate rather than take enforcement action, but its approach has toughened in recent years as backyard burning continued to generate a large number of complaints.

The harder line will also apply to those caught breaching the rules at industrial and trade premises, said Ms Dacre.

“Open burning at industrial or trade premises is not permitted under our Proposed Regional Plan and businesses breaching this rule now typically receive a $1000 instant fine, rather than the warning they may have got previously,” she said.

Ms Dacre says the council’s Proposed Regional Plan effectively bans backyard burning in the more densely populated Whangarei urban area.

“People living within the Whangarei city airshed – which is roughly bordered by Maunu, Onerahi, Tikipunga, Springs Flat and Hurupaki – shouldn’t be burning waste unless they are at least 100 metres upwind (and 50m in any other direction) of others, or unless they have a resource consent to burn.”

“Only waste that is paper, untreated wood, cardboard or vegetation can be burnt.”

She said Northlanders outside the Whangarei urban areas can still have outside fires, providing they:

  • Don’t cause offensive or objectionable smoke or odour to neighbouring residents;
  • Notify all neighbours within 100 metres of the fire if the fire is going to last for more than 24 hours and is within 100 metres of a smoke sensitive area,
  • Don’t obscure vision along a public road;
  • Ensure fires only contain waste that is paper, untreated wood, cardboard and vegetation (or animal remains where the burning is on agricultural land).

Ms Dacre says the council was keen to encourage alternatives to backyard burning wherever possible.

“Waste vegetation can be composted or mulched, larger branches can be used as firewood and paper and other materials can usually be recycled,” she said.

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