Backyard burning

Burning some materials creates smoke that can affect your health.  That’s why we get involved with backyard burning and waste fires.

Tiny particles in the smoke can go deep into your lungs. These can hold nasty chemicals that may cause breathing problems like asthma. Smoke and fumes from things like plastics can be especially nasty, some release cancer-causing chemicals. Children, the elderly and those with breathing problems are most harmed by poor air quality. 

Fire permits and how to get one 

The Northland Regional Council does NOT issue fire permits

Whangārei, Far North and Kaipara Districts
Contact Northland Fire and Emergency New Zealand – Telephone 09 4010723 for Whangārei and Kaipara Districts or visit the following website:

Backyard burning is usually a seasonal problem that gets worse during spring and autumn. In spring and autumn, more people get into their gardens and burn unwanted garden waste. Just before summer people often try to get a burn in before possible fire restrictions. To check what fire restrictions are in place, refer to or phone 0800 658 628.

What are the rules?

It’s illegal for people to create a smoke nuisance.  They can be hit with an instant fine of up to $1000.

Our Air Quality Plan says what you can and what you can’t burn.  There are a lot of things that are illegal to burn, like rubber (including tyres), hazardous substances or their containers, oil, coated metal cable, vehicle parts and timber treated with copper, chrome and arsenic.

You’re not allowed to burn plastic agrichemical containers and any halogenated plastic products like PVC pipes.

Paper, cardboard and untreated timber can be burned on trade and industrial premises if the fire is contained in an incinerator.  The smoke must not cause a nuisance to any neighbours. Other waste cannot be burned on industrial sites without resource consent.

Inside Whangārei airshed boundaries

Go to our online map to see if you're within an airshed boundary

Whāngārei airshed boundaries.

Rules within Whangārei City

People living within the Whangārei city airshed area can only burn waste if:

  • They hold a resource consent; or
  • Their property is larger than one hectare (but burning isn't allowed during June, July and August as still, calm winter conditions can cause smoke to linger).

Burning for food cooking purposes using barbeques, hangi, umu and using wood-fired kilns is allowed as long as no offensive or objectionable smoke or odour occurs beyond the property boundary.

The Whangārei city airshed area includes most of Kamo, Tikipunga, Kensington, Morningside, Central Whangārei, Otangarei, Raumanga, Maunu and Onerahi. 

Rules in the wider region

Residents outside of Whangārei city are permitted to have outside fires as long as the fire does not cause offensive or objectionable smoke or odour to neighbouring residents or obscure vision along public roads.


If you are planning to burn, consider your neighbours and the environment.  Here are some points to bear in mind:

  • Don't burn plastics, rubber, tyres, coated metal wires, treated timber, construction or medical waste, paint, oil, motor vehicle parts, or any other hazardous materials. It is not permitted to burn these items in the Regional Air Quality Plan.
  • Talk to your neighbours first, and light the fire at an agreed time - e.g. when they are going to be away for the day.
  • Make sure the wind is blowing in the direction where the smoke will cause the least bother.
  • Don't burn green plants – let them dry out and turn brown first.
  • Make sure that the stuff to be burnt is dry - damp fires generate smoke.
  • Consider using an incinerator; even a large drum with an air hole cut out of the bottom will help the fire burn more cleanly.

Alternatives to burning

There are lots of ways you can dispose of your waste without burning it. You can:

  • Recycle plastics, paper, glass and tins by placing them in your recycle bin or take them to your local recycling centre.
  • Compost garden waste including clippings, trimmings, small branches and leaves.
  • Mulch larger branches (up to 30cm in diameter) using a chipper or shredder and add to your garden as a soil conditioner. 
  • Use a worm farm to dispose of vegetable peelings and food scraps.
  • Dispose of household refuse in rubbish bags as part of your weekly roadside collection service.
  • Take larger quantities of refuse to a transfer station for disposal.
  • Larger branches and logs can be cut to size and used as firewood during the winter in an internal domestic fireplace.
  • Hire a mini-skip and place your waste material in the skip for removal.
  • Waste that may be of use to someone else can be registered on the waste exchange website:

Find out more about waste disposal alternatives:

Bothered by smoke from a fire?

Ask the person who lit it to put it out.

If they won’t and the trouble continues, please call our 24/7 Environment Hotline 0800 504 639.