Rural fires - who pays?

Property

Costs associated with fighting fires in rural areas can be massive so it pays to ensure property owners review their current insurance policies to make sure they are covered.

One of the down sides of a long hot golden summer is the increased fire risk that hot dry and sunny conditions creates.

The recent series of wild fires around Canterbury and Marlborough will have many property owners reaching for their insurance policies to see whether they are covered for the costs of fighting fires in the rural environment.

The costs of fighting rural fires can be huge – without including loss of property and production and the risk to human and animal lives. The costs of fighting the recent fire in Marlborough has been estimated at over $1 million.

So who pays?

Under the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977, rural landowners can be held to be responsible for the costs of fighting fires on their properties in addition to the costs of any damage caused as a result of the fire.

Rural and lifestyle block owners would be well advised to review their insurance policies to make sure that the level and type of cover they provide will be enough to cover the costs of fighting rural fires.

Owners should also look at other ways of minimising risk. Useful information about ways to reduce the risk of fire around homesteads and buildings can be found on the National Rural Fire Authority website.

If you need advice regarding your responsibilities under the Forest and Rural Fires Act, please contact our Agribusiness team, Richard Parkes and Caroline Mason.

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