Fireworks have recently being let off in the region during a total fire ban during the Cromwell fires, and extreme fire risk, which causes doubt that there is a full comprehension regarding this issue. “Council does not exercise any control over people’s ability to light fireworks, this is a decision of the individual or groups choosing to use them. Fire and Emergency New Zealand provides guidance on the safe use of fireworks, which can be found at FENZ website. FENZ has recently issued a fire ban across Central Otago and has encouraged people not to light fireworks during this ban period,” said Jack Barlow, Queenstown Lakes District Council communications advisor.
According to the national service call center, when someone hears fireworks or sees people with lit a fire, assuming it is impossible to let them know it needs to be put out immediately, the advice is to call 105, the police non emergency number. If that number has a delay of more than a minute or so, hang up and call 111. “In relation to the fire ban and fireworks issue in Wānaka, police have a role in the enforcement of the sale of fireworks,” said Miriam Reddington, area response manager at the Wānaka Police Station.
People have permission to get the authorities involved if someone doesn’t respect the ban. “We are serious about any messaging put in place restricting or banning fires around New Zealand. If there have been incidents of people not adhering to the restrictions, we will look to visit them if we know where they live to explain the dangers of lighting fires when a total fire ban is in place. Our priority is to educate New Zealanders of dangers, to ensure we have an understanding community who know about risks around fire,” warned Graeme Still, Otago principal rural fire officer. FENZ do have powers to prosecute, but they don’t want that to be their first response. However, if a prosecution is deemed necessary those responsible can face a fine of up to $300,000 or a two-year jail sentence. Moral of the story; don’t play with fire.