The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Resource material › Our Policy Advice Areas › Fire Policy

The Department provides policy advice on New Zealand’s fire services to the Minister of Internal Affairs, particularly on the Fire Service Act 1975 and associated regulations, and the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 and associated regulations.

Fire Legislation

Fire Service Act 1975

This Act establishes the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, the Fire Service and the National Rural Fire Authority and prescribes their functions and organisational arrangements.

The New Zealand Fire Service Commission is the controlling board for the New Zealand Fire Service. The Commission has five members, who are appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs. Under the Act, the Commission is also the National Rural Fire Authority. As the Authority, the Commission has strategic and oversight roles for rural fire control but not for the operational responsibilities of individual rural fire authorities.

The New Zealand Fire Service is responsible for a network of urban fire districts, which account for approximately 3% of New Zealand’s land area, but more than 85% of the population.

Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings Regulations 2006

These provide for fire safety in specified buildings and the provision of evacuation schemes and procedures in the event of fire.

Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977

This Act provides for a system of Fire Authorities, which are responsible for the fire protection of approximately 97% of New Zealand’s land area that lies outside of the urban fire districts. Fire Authorities are generally territorial authorities, but also include the Ministers of Conservation and Defence, and rural fire committees comprising mixed membership.

The Minister of Conservation has responsibility for rural fire management on the Department of Conservation estate, which comprises around 30% of New Zealand’s area. The Minister of Defence is responsible for rural fire management in specified Defence Rural Fire Districts.

While this Act addresses mainly the management risks associated with forest and vegetation fires, Fire Authorities have responsibility for all fires in their areas.

Forest and Rural Fires Regulations 2005

These are largely concerned with the appointment and running of Fire Committees, the content and review of Fire Plans as well as various procedural issues for Fire Authorities.

Crown Entity Monitoring

Under the
Crown Entities Act 2004 the Minister of Internal Affairs has responsibility for ensuring that Crown entities (including the Fire Service Commission) are effective, through:
  • the appointment and removal of Board members;
  • participating in direction setting, through the annual Letter of Expectation and Statement of Intent, and monitoring and reviewing performance and results; and
  • managing risks on behalf of the Crown.
The Department monitors the performance of a range of Crown entities, of which the Fire Service Commission is one. The Crown Entity Monitoring unit provides advice to the Minister on:
  • appointments to the Board of the Fire Service Commission;
  • determining annually the amount of Fire Service levy to be allocated to the Rural Fire fighting Fund;
  • determining annually with the Minister of Conservation the contribution to the Rural Firefighting Fund from the Crown, through Vote Conservation;
  • reviewing the rate of the Fire Service levy each year; and
  • maintaining a panel of persons who may be appointed as Rural Fire Mediators.

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