Fire permits cancelled as wind warning upgraded

All fire permits have been cancelled in Otago and Southland until further notice, ahead of a front which is predicted to bring winds gusting to 130kmh for much of the region over the next two days.

MetService has issued a warning for severe northwest gales which were expected to gust to 130kmh in exposed places around Fiordland (south of Doubtful Sound), Southland, Stewart Is and Clutha, from 4pm Thursday until 4am Friday.

It is also expected to gust to 140kmh in exposed places around the Canterbury High Country, from 9pm Thursday until 9am Friday.

A MetService spokesman said northwest winds may also approach severe gale force in exposed places around the Southern Lakes, Central Otago, North Otago and Dunedin, between 7pm Thursday and 7am Friday.

"Strong wind gusts could damage trees, power lines and unsecured structures.

"Driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles."

He urged residents to secure anything that could be picked up by wind.

Firefighters warned the severe gales also increased the danger of fires.

Southland principal rural fire officer Timo Bierlin and Otago District Principal Rural Fire Officer Graeme Still said fire permits for both regions had been cancelled until further notice.

Mr Bierlin said the strong northwest gales would bring warm, dry conditions to Southland, significantly increasing the risk of fires occurring and spreading rapidly.

"We are asking people not to light fires while these conditions persist.

"Activities such as welding, grinding, chainsaw use, or mowing roadsides could all have the potential to start a fire during dry conditions."

He also asked people who had burnt fires in the past two months, to ensure they were out.

"Turn the area over to ensure there is no heat left, and apply water until it is cold to touch.

"Wind events often catch Southlanders out. Embers can travel a long way, lodging in dry vegetation and starting fires."

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) was also asking people to extinguish any burning fires and not to light any fires until conditions eased.

This includes solid fuel barbeques, camp fires, incinerators and hedge trimmings.