Outdoor burning can be a nuisance for neighbours and contribute to air pollution in parts of Otago. You can help reduce air pollution from outdoor burning. 

Although the Otago Air Plan allows some outdoor burning, we encourage alternatives such as composting, mulching, using kerbside collection services or visiting a transfer station.

Different types of outdoor burning

There are three different types of outdoor burning:

  • Industrial burning
  • Backyard fire
  • Vegetation/forestry burn off


An outdoor fire – such as a brazier, a controlled rural burn-off, or a hangi – must comply with Otago Air Plan rules.

Having a permit from Fire and Emergency NZ does not necessarily mean your burning is permitted under Otago Air Plan rules.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand sets fire seasons, tracks daily fire danger, and issues permits to burn.

Their rules depend on what kind of fire you have and whether it's an open, restricted or prohibited season. Before you light a fire, check your plan at checkitsalright.nz and get a permit if you need one. You must also follow the Otago Air Plan rules for what you can burn and where the fire is.

What materials can I burn?

The answer depends on what you want to burn, how big your property is and where you live. Your city or district council may also have restrictions on outdoor burning. In all cases, the most stringent regulation applies.

Ok to burn

  • Untreated wood
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Vegetation (must not be green)

Not ok to burn

  • Rubber, including tyres, tubes and foam rubber
  • Treated timber
  • Waste oil or other petroleum products
  • Plastics of any kind, including vinyl, nylon, and polystyrene, but you can burn polyethylene (used for silage wrap)
  • Mineral fibres
  • Wires or cables
  • Food waste
  • Disposable nappies
  • Chemicals including garden sprays and agrichemicals
  • Paints, varnishes or other surface coatings
  • Motor vehicle or vehicle parts
  • Any pathological material
  • Sewage sludge, such as solids from septic tanks
  • Material from contaminated sites or buildings
  • Materials containing heavy metals

Better burning

If burning permitted material is your only option, you should reduce smoke and burn safely and considerately.

  • Burn as far from your property boundary as possible.
  • Check that the wind is predicted to be away from built-up areas for the duration of the fire.
  • Postpone the lighting of your fire if there's already smoke from other fires in the air.
  • Make smaller fires.
  • Use dry fuel and stack it loosely.
  • Don't let the fire smoulder.
  • Avoid burning in the early morning or late afternoon/evening (breezier daytime conditions help to disperse the smoke).
  • Avoid burning when there is an inversion layer.
  • Be prepared to put the fire out if conditions change or you discover that you are causing a nuisance.
  • Ensure burning on the property is permitted under the Air Plan.

We've produced a quick guide for anyone who wants to know if their outdoor burn is permitted.


Flow chart to help you know what you can burn - in short, don't burn if smoke, odour or ash will leave your property; don't burn prohibited material.
Click to read the PDF version of the ORC Outdoor Burning Guide


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about outdoor burning

Air Zones 1 and 2: household burning outdoors

Air Zones 1 and 2: business and commercial burning outdoors

Rest of Otago: burning outdoors that's not on production land

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Page last updated 7 July 2024.