Outdoor burning

Check it's alright before you light

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has its own seasonal restrictions and permitting requirements. Even if your burning is within the Environment Canterbury rules, be sure to check if it's an open, restricted or prohibited fire season. Visit checkitsalright.nz for details.

Outdoor burning is a nuisance for neighbours and adds to air pollution caused by other sources such as home heating. The Canterbury Air Regional Plan allows some outdoor burning but we do encourage alternatives such as composting, mulching, using kerb-side collection services or visiting a transfer station.

The Air Plan's outdoor burning measures are based on property size, not on whether you're in a rural or urban area. Even if burning is allowed under our rules, be aware that Fire and Emergency New Zealand have their own restrictions and permitting requirements, which can be accessed on their handy website tool.

Report an incident

To report a burning-related incident, call Environment Canterbury on 0800 765 588 (24 hours) or use the Snap Send Solve app to report an issue from your mobile phone.

For properties under two hectares

  • You cannot burn outdoors, even if you are in a rural area. Consider alternatives like mulching, composting or take your waste to a transfer station.
  • The only exception is outdoor cooking - including BBQs, pizza ovens, hāngī or umu – if the smoke is not offensive or objectionable beyond your property boundary.
  • A resource consent is needed for burning green waste.
  • Outdoor burning is allowed in some exceptional circumstances for firefighting training, some NZ Defence Force functions, biosecurity reasons and community events.

For properties over two hectares

You can burn dry vegetation (excluding standing crop residue), paper, cardboard or untreated wood, but first consider alternatives:

  • Instead of burning lawn clippings and leaves, lay them down for mulching. It enriches soil and plant life
  • Take your rubbish to collection or transfer sites. Check with your local council for locations
  • Compost leaves, food scraps, grass cuttings, and organic manure.

If you are planning to burn outdoors, you must meet these conditions:

  • Burning is 100+ metres upwind and 50+ metres in any other direction from neighbours
  • The material being burnt is dry; moisture content must be less than 25 per cent
  • Smoke is not blown towards a township
  • The material being burnt is from your property and/or only one of your neighbour's properties
  • Smoke does not cause a nuisance beyond your property boundary
  • A smoke management plan is completed if the burn will last 3+ days or for any crop residue burning
  • If you are in a clean-air zone: Kaiapoi, Christchurch, Timaru - burning is only allowed from 1 September to 30 April.
    Rangiora, Geraldine, Ashburton, Waimate - burning is only allowed from 1 September to 31 May.
  • Liquid fire accelerant used does not exceed 10 litres
  • Burning is not within 100m of a national grid power line or substation (unless you have permission from the owner).

Note: for any crop residue burning, see separate section below.

Banned materials

Never burn these materials in Canterbury:

  • Painted or treated wood
  • Rubber
  • Wire coated with any material
  • Plastic
  • Material containing asbestos
  • Metals
  • Batteries
  • Used and waste oil
  • Chemicals
  • Tar and bitumen
  • Paint and other surface coating materials
  • Containers that have stored hazardous materials

Crop residue / stubble burning

Before burning, ensure you're following these five "must-dos" for a safe, efficient and nuisance-free burn:

  • Check it's alright to light: Visit checkitsalright.nz and use the three-step tool to find out if you can light your fire, what the fire risk is, and what you should do to stay safe.
  • Complete a smoke management plan: This is a legal requirement. The plan covers things such as the material that is being burnt, the weather forecast and who may be affected.
  • Understand the Canterbury Air Regional Plan (CARP): The CARP lays out the rules and regulations for burning. It's especially important to understand section 7 of the plan.
  • Read the guide on stubble burning: Fire and Emergency New Zealand's guide gives advice on things such as firebreaks, weather, the right way to light, and insurance.
  • Check you're not burning in a buffer zone: Burning in buffer zones around Ashburton or Timaru require resource consent. More information is below.

Crop residue buffer zones

There are two designated crop residue burning buffer zones in the Canterbury Air Regional Plan: Timaru and Ashburton. Inside these zones, anyone wanting to carry out crop residue burning must have resource consent.

We know crop residue burning is important for many arable farmers, so the creation of these buffer zones give farmers certainty they can do it, provided conditions are met.

The two aerial images below show the properties that lie inside the buffer zones.

If you are unsure, contact us on 0800 329 276.

Timaru Crop Residue Buffer Zone

Timaru crop residue buffer zone

Ashburton Crop Residue Buffer Zone

Ashburton crop residue buffer zone

Smoke management plans

Smoke management plans are required for any crop residue burning and for any outdoor burns that last for three or more days.

We provide a template that can be filled out digitally or printed out and filled out by hand. It covers everything in Schedule 3 of the Canterbury Air Regional Plan.

You can use an alternative format if you wish, provided all the required content is covered and provided it can be shown to Environment Canterbury on request.

Hill and high country

Hill and high country is land with a slope of more than 20 degrees and/or land that is more than 600 metres above sea level. Burning vegetation in the Canterbury hill and high country is allowed provided certain conditions are met. You must also provide Environment Canterbury with prior notice of your burn (at least 20 working days before burning) using this online hill and high country burning form.

Hill and high country burning conditions

  • burning must not occur within five metres of the bed of a river (if the wetted bed is more than two metres wide)
  • burning must not occur within five metres of a lake or any wetland boundary, where the wetland is more than 0.5 hectares)
  • within the area to be burnt:
- the extent of bare ground shall be less than 20 percent and;
- the slope of the land shall be less than 35 degrees and;
- the land to be burnt must be less than 900 metres above sea level
  • vegetation in the area to be burnt must not have been burnt within the last ten years
  • burning must be carried out between 1 June and 31 October
  • the burnt area must be either
-spelled from grazing for a minimum of six months following burning or;
-sown with pasture seed within six months of burning or;
-planted with trees within one year of burning.

Failure to notify us prior to burning vegetation in the hill and high country may result in enforcement action. It also pays to check if you need a fire permit from your district or your local Fire and Emergency New Zealand Principal Rural Fire Officer. If your burn does not comply with our hill and high country burning conditions, you'll need a resource consent.