New Zealand Journal of Forestry (2008) 53(3): 19–22
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry
Wildfires in New Zealand from 1991 to 2007
Stuart A.J. Anderson* 1, Jonathan J. Doherty 2 and H. Grant Pearce 3
1 Scion, Rural Fire Research Group, Christchurch. Email email@example.com
2 Pitcairn Crescent, Bryndwr, Christchurch
3 Scion, Rural Fire Research Group, Christchurch
Abstract: An analysis was undertaken of wildfire records in New Zealand from 1991-2007 to determine trends in fire occurrence, area burned and fire causes. Each year an average of 3,033 wildfires burned 5,865 ha. The total area burned was made up of 54% grasslands, 40% scrublands and 6% forests. Unknown and miscellaneous causes accounted for almost half (46%) of the total number of fires and 31% of the area burned. The most significant known cause of wildfires was land clearing (escapes from burnoffs), accounting for 20% of wildfires and 47% of the area burned. Natural causes (lightning) made up only 0.1% of both the number of wildfires and area burned. The South Island accounted for 34% of wildfires and 75% of the total area burned, and Northland and the Eastern North Island accounted for 60% of the remaining area burned in the North Island. There was also a significant increase in the number of wildfires reported annually, from around 1200 in 1991 to more than 4000 in 2007. This is the most detailed and comprehensive analysis of wildfire occurrence undertaken in New Zealand to date, and the findings have relevance for development of wildfire reduction and readiness strategies.