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Burning crop stubble on your property?

By Thomas Holmes, Planner, Baseline Group | Apr 06, 2023

The quantity of stubble (crop residue) produced in New Zealand is around 1 million tonnes per year by the arable industry in New Zealand. About 700,000 tonnes of this is produced in Canterbury. Most crop residue in Canterbury is either baled, incorporated into the soil or left on the soil surface leaving around 300,000 tonnes that is burned in Canterbury each year.

Environment Canterbury is currently reminding farmers within Timaru and Ashburton crop residue burning buffer zones, that they will require resource consents before they commence any burning of annual crops. In Selwyn, there are no burning buffer zones, however it is important to know that resource consent may be required depending on the scale of the burning operation.

The Canterbury Air Regional Plan provides guidance on what is permitted and circumstances where resource consent is required. If you have a site under two hectares you are not permitted to burn outdoors even if you are in a rural area, the only exception is outdoor cooking. A resource consent would be needed for burning green waste.

If you have a site over two hectares you are permitted to burn vegetation on your property however this excludes the burning of standing crop residue. Under the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, you are permitted to burn crop residue outside of the buffer zones provided a Smoke Management Plan has been prepared, this includes sites that are less than two hectares.

Environment Canterbury encourages alternatives such as composting, mulching or visiting a transfer station, which is generally more appropriate for smaller lifestyle properties.

When planning to use fire as a land management tool, the first stage is to check and comply with the legal and administrative requirements of the area where you want to have the burn. You will need to check what the current fire season status is for your area and whether you need a fire permit. Even with a valid fire permit you are still responsible for the safety of the fire. Check with your local territorial authority and regional council about any other restrictions or rules for burning in open air.

Before you begin burning any crop, it is advised you visit to find out if you are allowed to burn. If you’re burning in a restricted or prohibited fire season, you will need a permit from Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ). Read the FENZ guide to crop residue burns. The guide gives advice on things such as firebreaks, weather, the right way to light, and insurance.

You will need to make a smoke management plan. This is a legal requirement and must cover everything from the weather forecast for the day of the burn to how you’ll inform those who may be affected. An easy-to-follow template is available at

And as always, consider your neighbours and the wider community. Often, farmers will install a sign at their boundary saying "planned crop residue burn" which can reassure passers-by and avoid unnecessary emergency calls.

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