22 Dec 2012

Fire ban angers farmers

4:14 pm on 22 December 2012

A fire ban is in force in rural Southland over the holiday period because half the usual number of volunteer firefighters are unavailable.

The Southern Rural Fire Authority will stop issuing fire permits from Sundayfor 10 days until 3 January.

Federated Farmers has criticised the decision as unnecessary and unfair.

Southland Federated Farmers president, Russell MacPherson says farmers can't stop work just because it's Christmas.

Mr MacPherson says the authority assumes that every fire will get out of control whereas farmers are careful and responsible.

But deputy principal fire officer Elton Smith says fire restrictions are a vital tool to manage risk and ensure emergency services are maintained.

He says many rural firefighters are volunteers, and about half are on holiday over Christmas and New Year.

Mr Smith says smaller fires such as cooking fires, as well as bonfires and fireworks at controlled community events, are still allowed.