DOC works to prevent and manage fires on public conservation lands and issues fire permits.

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Fire permits needed for all public conservation land 

You must get a written fire permit from DOC to light any fire in the open on public conservation land.

In some cases you need a permit for a fire within one kilometre of these lands. Call your local DOC office and they can help you work out whether your fire site falls within the one kilometre fire margin around conservation land.  

How do I get a fire permit?

Contact your local DOC office.

Fire bans

A fire ban, or prohibited fire season, is declared when conditions are such that any fire is likely to put life and property at risk. During a prohibited fire season, no fires can be lit in the open air and all fire permits are cancelled.

DOC fire staff calculate the daily fire danger. They use weather patterns and conditions to predict the likelihood of a fire occurring, and, if it does occur, how difficult it will be to manage. They monitor wind, rainfall, relative humidity and other indicators via remote weather stations scattered throughout the countryside, and this enables them to calculate the fire risk. 

For more information: National Rural Fire Authority website

What should I do if I see a wild fire?

Phone 111.  


Most fires are due to carelessness; either when permitted or non-permitted fires get out of control, or when a campfire is not fully put out before leaving a campsite.  

You can be held personally liable for the costs of fighting a rural fire, if you are proved responsible for causing it.

The weather plays a major role in how many fires start, how intense they are, the damage done and how difficult they are to extinguish.


 The average costs over the last three years for the Department's fire management is:

  • reduction - $2 million
  • readiness - $2.2 million
  • response (excluding fire suppression) - $600K
  • recovery - $800K
  • fire suppression - $1.8 million

Total DOC Fire Management costs average $7.4 million a year. 

The average area burnt over the last 3 years is:

  • public conservation land – 700 ha
  • within Fire Safety Margin -  500 ha

The 2008-9 fire season had 187 fires on public lands.

DOC's fire-management responsibilities

DOC is the largest rural fire authority in the country

DOC is responsible for preventing and managing fires on public conservation land, all unoccupied crown land (including crown riverbeds) and within one kilometre of these lands.

Fire training. Photo: M Lane.
DOC fire training

Public conservation lands can include national parks, conservation parks, scenic, scientific, or recreation reserves, and special purpose reserves for the management of wildlife.

Why does DOC fight fires?

Wild fires can put lives at risk, destroy property, and devastate natural areas. Fire poses a serious risk to public conservation lands and their natural, cultural, historical and recreational values.

If a fire occurs, putting it out takes priority over all other work. During periods of high to extreme fire danger, DOC staff carry their fire kits where ever they are working so they can respond to a fire call.  

Is everyone in DOC a fire-fighter?

DOC fire-fighter Bryan Dynes.
DOC fire-fighter Bryan Dynes

The DOC fire team is made up of staff and volunteers, about 1000 nationally, who are backcountry trained and equipped to fight fires in rural areas.

All field staff undergo basic fire fighter training, while office-based staff have the option to take on fire suppression work, in addition to their normal jobs.

In regions that have a high number of fires, DOC has Volunteer Rural Fire Forces registered with the National Rural Fire Authority. These volunteers receive the same training and gain the same competencies as DOC staff.

DOC fire-fighters are trained to the New Zealand Qualification Standards and beyond. They practise regularly, running pumps and hoses, and becoming familiar with the equipment.

All DOC fire-fighters and fire managers undergo a fire fighter fitness programme which is split into three levels. The highest level is designed to ensure our front-line fire fighters are capable of undertaking sustained, arduous work in difficult country.

The department has six central fire depots around the country. Specialised fire depot staff maintain fire equipment for DOC and other rural fire authorities.

The National Fire Co-ordinator, based in Research, Development and Improvement Division Wellington, is also the key link with the National Rural Fire Authority and international rural fire agencies.

DOC staff are well-trained and well-equipped; they often serve as leaders and models for other rural fire services.

How does DOC work in with other fire brigades?

DOC often joins other emergencies services such as the New Zealand Fire Service to respond to callouts. All emergency services in New Zealand use the same system for managing emergencies - called CIMS (Co-ordinated incident management system). CIMS means that everyone uses a common, agreed approach to ensure safety of personnel, and adequate and timely supply of equipment when multiple agencies are involved.


The key legislation relating to rural fire management is the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977, the Regulations 2005 of the Act, the Fire Service Act 1975, and any amendments to these.

“Fire Control” is defined as: the safeguarding of life and property through prevention, detection, control, restriction, suppression and extinction of fire.

The Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 is the main legislation and this sets out the powers and duties of rural fire authorities. Rural fire authorities are responsible for fire control within their defined area. RFAs can be DOC, Local Territorial Authorities, or Rural Fire District Committees.

As a rural fire authority DOC:

  • Is represented on each local Regional Rural Fire Committee. These committees are made up of representatives from all rural fire authorities in the region along with representatives from the NZ Fire Service, the NZ Federation of Farmers, NZ Forest Owners Association, and the Regional Council.
  • Produces a National Fire Plan that sets out guidelines and instructions for fire management, including standard operating procedures built around the 4 Rs of emergency management - reduction, readiness, response, recovery. Conservancies also produce a Conservancy Fire Action/Response Plan which contains details on resources and local fire management directions.
  • Declares and publicises fire seasons on areas under its authority, based on current fire risk. DOC-managed lands have only two fire seasons – restricted and prohibited.
  • Provides adequate, well maintained fire equipment, located so that it can be effectively used.
  • Has available adequately trained fire fighters and fire managers.

Department of Conservation Fire Plan

To obtain a hard copy, contact:

Dave Hunt

Whare Kaupapa Atawhai / Conservation House
Phone:      +64 4 471 0726
Full office details


Related links


Find out more


Dave Hunt
National Fire Coordinator
Department of Conservation
PO Box 10420
Wellington 6143
Phone +64 4 471 0726
Fax +64 4 381 3057