Fire restrictions to be reviewed before next fire season - 26/03/2008The Wanganui Rural Community Board wants to promote a better understanding of fire restrictions that are imposed during drought conditions.
The board will facilitate a meeting of rural land users with the Wanganui District Rural Fire Authority to review the restrictions imposed during the recent extreme fire risk season and how well these worked.
"During the recent fire ban, conflicts arose between the Fire Authority and farmers over the issue of special permits and the conditions contained therein," Wanganui Rural Community Board spokesman Alan Taylor said.
"It is imperative that these conflicts be resolved. Both the Rural Community Board and the Rural Fire Authority recognise that there was confusion over special fire permits and relationships sometimes became strained between farmers and the Fire Authority.
"The issue was catalysed by the need for farmers to burn crop residues at a time when drought conditions had encouraged the Rural Fire Authority to exercise serious vigilance. This fire season was considered to carry the worst risk for decades. Unsound burning practices by some farmers and misunderstandings on both sides made it clear to the Community Board that land users and the Fire Authority need a forum in which to express their respective points of view and develop workable solutions for the future.
"The Rural Community Board also hopes that it can assist the Rural Fire Authority in seeing that fire risk is better understood by all persons working on, or entering, rural properties. Incidents of 'silly' behaviour exacerbated the fire risk this year and I believe that the Board and the Fire Authority could share the joint aims of promoting best agricultural practices such as controlled burning and improved fire safety in the rural environment at the same time," Mr Taylor said.
Rural Fire Authorities
The Wanganui District has two Rural Fire Authorities – the Wanganui District Council and the Department of Conservation.
Fire Authorities are governed by the Fire Service Act, Forest and Rural Fires Act, Forest and Rural Fires Regulations, Civil Aviation Act, District Plan, One Plan and Resource Management Act.
Under section 18 of the Forest and Rural Fires Act, a Rural Fire Authority has to assess the fire hazard and issue warnings about fire hazard conditions. Further sections allow for fire management by way of restrictions and prohibitions.
Wanganui District Council Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer Richard Terrey said the Rural Fire Authority welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the meeting about fire restrictions.
"There are a lot of competing demands during the fire season which need to be discussed," Mr Terrey said.
"Also in the mix are the neighbouring Rural Fire Authorities, such as Rangitikei, Ruapehu and Manawatu, who through the Regional Rural Fire Committee are co-ordinating restrictions and prohibitions to reduce confusion and the unnecessary wasting of fire suppression resources responding to 'calls with good intent' false alarms. Rural Fire Authorities aim to ensure the safe use of fire as a land management tool and, should accidents happen or things go wrong, provide an effective suppression response.
"We look forward to the workshop and discussions to remove any confusion and misunderstandings that are out there."
The Rural Community Board encourages those interested in becoming involved in the discussions to contact the Wanganui District Council, a member of the Wanganui Rural Community Board, or the Wanganui District Rural Fire Authority (phone 349 0001). The meeting will probably be held in early May.