Controls for open burning

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 imposes a number of controls for open burning that apply within the Maitland Local Government Area (Maitland LGA).

Can I burn-off vegetation or garbage in my own backyard?

The short answer to this question is NO.

You cannot burn vegetation or anything else in the open or in an incinerator (unless that incinerator is operated in accordance with the requirements of NSW Environment Protection Authority). (Cl 12 POEO Clean Air Regulation).

There are some exceptions for cooking, barbecuing and recreational fires (eg camping, scouting and picnicking, or other outdoor activities) subject to conditions.

What if I live in a semi-rural area, then can I burn off vegetation and garbage?

The following articles are prohibited articles and should not be burnt under any circumstances:

  • Tyres.
  • Coated wire.
  • Paint containers and residues.
  • Solvent containers and residues.
  • Timber treated with copper chromium arsenate (CCA) or pentachlorophenol (PCP).

Within the Maitland LGA the burning of dead and dry vegetation is only permitted when the he vegetation to be burnt was grown on that land, and that the parcel of land has a footprint of not less than 4000 square metres.

In addition the land would need be zoned as one of the following:

  • RU1 Primary Production (Maitland LEP 2011)
  • RU2 Rural Landscape (Maitland LEP 2011)
  • R5 Large Lot Residential (Maitland LEP 2011)

If you meet the specified criteria above, Council grants automatic approval provided you comply with the following conditions:

  • Approval to burn is only given if reuse and recycling options (such as mulching or chipping) are not feasible.
  • Land managers, owners or residents must contact the NSW Rural Fire Service or Fire and Rescue NSW prior to lighting any fires.
  • Approval to burn does not apply during proclaimed “no burn days” or when a “total fire ban” is in force.
  • Approval to burn in the open during the statutory Bush Fire Danger Period is subject to a permit from the NSW Rural Fire Service or from Fire and Rescue NSW and any additional conditions contained in that permit.
  • The NSW Rural Fire Service guideline “Before you light that fire” and “Standards for Pile Burning”, should be followed when conducting a burn.
  • An open fire must not be less than 25 metres from any dwelling.
  • Adjacent property residents must be given 24 hours notice (verbal or written) of an intention to burn.
  • An open fire must be supervised at all times by an adult.
  • All combustible material within a 4.5 metre radius of the fire must be removed before it is lit.
  • Burning should only take place when weather conditions are calm and predicted to remain so.
  • Burning should not cause a smoke hazard where there is the potential to cause harm to any person or property.
  • The lighting of an open fire is not permitted before 8:00am or after 4:00pm.

Approval to burn under the MCC Control of Burning Policy is intended for the purpose of waste disposal of larger than average quantities of vegetative debris and is subject to compliance with specific criteria.

The MCC Control of Burning Policy does not override the exceptions provided in the POEO Clean Air Regulation including those for agricultural purposes and emergency bushfire hazard reduction.

For details on disposal of tree waste at the Mt Vincent Road Waste Management Centre refer to Council’s website.

Can I still have an open fire for recreational purposes?

YES, with some restrictions.

You can cook or barbecue in the open, you can also light, maintain or use a fire for recreational purposes such as camping, picnicking, scouting or other similar outdoor activities, so long as, only dry seasoned wood, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas or proprietary barbecue fuel (including a small quantity of fire starter) is used (subject to compliance with any NSW Fire restrictions eg total fire bans). (Cl 12(4) POEO Clean Air Regulation)

Are there any other exceptions?

Yes, the POEO Clean Air Regulation makes provision for controlled burning in the following circumstances.

  • As part of an agricultural operation (eg. burning stubble, orchard prunings, diseased crops, weeds or pest animal habitats, pasture for regenerative purposes or any other legitimate agricultural activity
  • To conduct training in methods of fire fighting by an authorised person
  • In a licenced incinerator meeting the requirements of the NSW Environment Protection Authority
  • To carry out emergency bush fire hazard reduction work under the Rural Fires Act 1997
  • To burn an animal that has or is suspected to have died of a disease proclaimed under the Stock Diseases Act 1923 or the Exotic Diseases of Animals Act 1991

You need to refer to the Regulation for the controls and specific circumstances of when these exceptions apply.

Who can I call if I'm not sure?

Lower Hunter Rural Fire Service - 02 4015 0000.

Land managers/owners must contact the Lower Hunter Rural Fire Service at least 24 hours prior to lighting any open fire. If planning to burn on a weekend please phone between 9am and 4:30pm on the Friday prior to advise of lighting.

A person who burns anything in the open or in an incinerator must do so by such practicable means as are necessary to prevent or minimise air pollution, including:

  • Taking into account the potential for smoke impacting on any person having regard to:
    • Wind direction
      Weather Conditions
      The length of time that the material being burnt is likely to burn
  • Taking reasonable measures to ensure the material being burnt is not wet,
  • Burning only material that is suitable for disposal by burning, having regard to possible effects on human health and the environment.

Useful resources