Current fire risk:

Fire risk - low

Updated: 11 April 2024

Green: Low Council's reserves remain open. With significant rainfall across the region the fire risk has dropped and it is now safe to access the reserves throughout the day, not just mornings and evenings.

If you see signs of smoke or fire in any reserves, please call 111 immediately.

Keeping our community safe

Long, hot, summer means the risk of fire increases for Nelson

NIWA is forecasting a long, hot, dry summer, with heightened risk of drought and fire danger.

While Fire and Emergency New Zealand take the lead on preparedness and community engagement during fire season, Nelson City Council is always looking at ways to reduce the fire risk on Council land.

Council owns around 10 000ha of reserve land and our goal for all our reserves is to be as low fire-risk as possible. Clearing dry vegetation along reserve boundaries and grazing sheep are key ongoing strategies, along with regular maintenance of strategically placed fire breaks to reduce the impact of a fire if it does break out.

We have also increased our pest plant control, including our management of wilding pines, and we have an ongoing programme to keep our reserve tracks clear of grass, weeds and plants so they can act as mini firebreaks throughout our reserves.

In the longer term, we plan to gradually transition to low fire risk native and exotic forest. Council officers regularly meet with PF Olsen and Tasman Pine Forest LTD to work together to manage the risk in the forestry areas on or near Council reserves.

Working with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ)

Council’s Parks team works closely with FENZ, and during fire season, Council officers meet with them weekly to assess the fire risk and if any action needs to be taken. Any decision around reserve closures is made by Council with advice from FENZ. During the fire season we closely monitor the Build Up Index (BUI), which is an indicator of the difficulty in suppressing a fire that has started.

Closing the reserves is a last resort, but when the risk of fire is high, closing the reserves means we can ensure the safety of those who might otherwise be out in Nelson’s hill country when a fire starts, and reduces the risk of a fire starting due to human error. According to FENZ statistics, 98% of wildfires in New Zealand are started by people.

Fire risk FAQ

What do the different risk levels mean?

Green: Low - moisture levels are high, the grass is green and there are no fire restrictions or warnings in place.

Yellow: Moderate – the grass is beginning to dry out, proactive steps to clear vegetation and lower your fire risk at your home/property are advised.

Orange: High – grass it almost completely dry and there is an elevated risk of a fire starting. Fire risk signage is installed at the entrances to our main reserves and people are advised to familiarise themselves with the Stay Safe messaging, and the reserve exit points and clear zones.

Red: Extreme – Higher fire-risk rated reserves are closed.

How is the decision to close reserves made?

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has weekly meetings with stakeholders, including Nelson City Council, DoC, Tasman District Council and forestry to discuss risks and a coordinated response for any reserve closures. Decisions are guided by the Build Up Index (BUI).

What are the thresholds for closing reserves?

Once the BUI reaches 60, Council installs signage at the entrances of our reserves outlining how you can keep yourself safe this summer while accessing them.

As we approach BUI 80 and a high level of grass dryness, FENZ will advise to close reserves with a very high-risk rating.

At BUI 100 and a very high level of grass and heavy fuels dryness, further full reserve closures will be implemented.

Why are some reserves shut and some open?

Closures will depend on the risk profile of each reserve, which varies according to vegetation type, topography, and the availability of evacuation routes. For instance, the risk profile in a pine forest is higher than it is for a reserve largely populated by less flammable native trees. Users should still take care in the open reserves by limiting visits to the early mornings and evenings, staying in the lower areas for ease of evacuation, carrying a cellphone and knowing the exit points/clear zones.

When will reserves be reopened?

Reserves are reopened when FENZ advises that risk factors have sufficiently decreased. Changes to access are assessed on a weekly basis.

Reduce your fire risk at home

  • Keep grass and vegetation short, particularly around your home and buildings like sheds and garages.

Dry grass can help fires spread very quickly. Clear away anything that could be fuel for a fire, including long grass, branches, twigs and needles within 10 metres of your home. If water restrictions allow, it’s ideal to keep grass watered and green too.

  • Move firewood and other flammable material well away from your home.

While it might be convenient during winter to have firewood stacked nearby, now is the time to make sure it’s at least 10 metres away from the house. Move anything else that could catch fire, like building materials or dry garden waste from against or under your home.

  • Keep gutters, roof and decks clear of leaves and twigs

Embers from fires are carried to homes by wind. Clearing out leaves, twigs and other dry debris from your gutter helps reduces the risk of a spark or ember igniting and spreading the fire.

  • Make sure Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) can find and access your property.

If you live in a rural area, make sure your property is clearly signposted with your Rural Addresses Property Identification (RAPID) number. Keep entrances and accessways clear – emergency vehicles need at least 4mx4m clearance.

  • Have a plan of action if there is a fire on or near your property

In the event of a vegetation or wildfire near you, know how to contact emergency services. Make sure you and your family have worked out a couple of different escape routes. Keep a portable radio handy and portable power banks to recharge your phone. Have a grab bag with essential items and important documents packed and ready to go. Make sure your vehicle has enough fuel and is easily accessible. Check on your neighbours and have a plan for your pets and livestock.