Common questions about backyard burning
Backyard burning generally refers to the burning of rubbish, leaf litter and other vegetation at a residential premises.
This page will help you identify when and where backyard burning can and cannot occur.
To report a fire emergency, call triple zero (000).
Why are there rules about backyard burning?
Burning wood and rubbish in open fires and incinerators can cause smoke, which is a major cause of air pollution. There are rules in place because backyard burning can harm the environment and your health.
The Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2022 (the Regulation) provides regulatory measures for different air quality issues. These issues include residential emissions such as woodsmoke and backyard burning, and emissions associated with motor vehicles, and industrial emissions. The Regulation does not include hazard reduction burns.
How is backyard burning controlled?
Council's Clean Air Policy provides clear direction to help you determine if dead and dry vegetation meets certain conditions that will allow you to burn without approval. Use the checklist to see if you meet the requirements to get automatic approval to burn your vegetation:
Do I need to get approval to burn?
You will need to apply for formal approval from Council when:
- you cannot meet all conditions of the self-assessment checklist in Council's Clean Air Policy. In this situation, you can make application to Council for a merit-based assessment, or
- NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) requires that the landholder obtain approval from Council. Please contact Moruya RFS on 02 4474 2855 for more information.
During fire danger periods (usually 1 October to 31 March each year) fires are not allowed unless you also obtain a Fire Permit from RFS. The aim of the Fire Permit is to ensure you safely manage your fire. A permit imposes conditions on the way a fire is lit and maintained. It also informs the authorities when and where the landowners intend to burn to ensure appropriate measures are in place.
You may also need a permit from RFS all year-round, depending on the type of fire. For example, a Fire Permit is required at all times if a fire is likely to be dangerous to a building.
If I have approval to burn, what are my responsibilities?
If you obtained approval to burn (if required), you will need to:
- check whether a Total Fire Ban is in force on NSW RFS' website. If there is, your permit is automatically suspended
- check if a No Burn Day is declared on NSW EPA's website on the day you plan to burn
- ensure you have permission from the property owner before burning
- notify adjoining neighbours and people you're likely to affect by smoke, at least 24 hours before you light the fire
- notify Moruya RFS at least 24 hours before you burn on 02 4474 2855
- check the expected weather conditions
- make sure the largest burn pile size is 2m wide by 2m long by 1.5m high
- vegetation should only be burnt on the premises on which it grew
- ensure burning complies with NSW RFS' Standards for Pile Burning
- follow any conditions stated on your Fire Permit from RFS (if required - usually during a fire danger period).
What are the penalties for breaking these laws?
Council officers and RFS can take action where they've established there was a breach of the Regulation. This includes issuing Penalty Infringement Notices (on-the-spot-fines).
Can I burn general rubbish?
No, burning general rubbish and using incinerators is not allowed on residential properties within Eurobodalla Shire. Only rural properties that do not have access to a domestic waste collection service can burn rubbish.
Eurobodalla's domestic waste collection service collects waste every week and recycling and garden organics every fortnight.
If your property is within the domestic collection area, you can also take part in Council's yearly clean-outs for hazardous household chemicals and junk items too bulky for the household bin.
Unless approved by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the Regulation does not allow you to burn:
- coated wire
- paint containers and residues
- solvent containers and residues
- timber treated with copper chromium arsenate (CCA) or pentachlorophenol (PCP).
If you have any of these items and you'd like to dispose of them, please contact Council’s Waste Services on 02 4474 1024 for advice.
You can also refer to Council's A-Z guide on hazardous waste disposal, which outlines if and how you can dispose of these unwanted items at Council's waste management facilities.
I live in a residential area, can I burn in my yard?
You are not allowed to burn dead and dry vegetation in the open in a residential area, including in incinerators and bonfires. Council encourages property owners to recycle or re-use vegetation by methods such as mulching, composting, or as fuel for domestic heating.
Council provides a waste collection service that includes garden organics (green lid bin) every fortnight from Eurobodalla Shire residents who live within our domestic collection area. You can also take your green waste to one of Council's waste management facilities instead of it being burned.
Property owners can request extra organics bins for a fee if you produce more green waste than can fit in your organics bin. You can do this by contacting Council’s Waste Services on 02 4474 1024.
The Regulation does allow for some exemptions for small fires - including cooking or barbequing - and for recreational purposes such as camping, scouting, and picnicking. This covers items such as fire-pits, braziers, pizza ovens and barbeques.
When operating such equipment, you should ensure that:
- a responsible adult is in direct supervision at all times
- a method of extinguishment is immediately available
- the fire does not cause a hazard or nuisance.
What if I think a property is a fire risk?
If you're concerned that the condition of vegetation on a property poses a fire hazard, please contact the RFS:
- W: NSW RFS
- T: Moruya RFS - 02 4474 2855
- NSW RFS: Bushfire danger period and fire permits
- NSW RFS: Standards for Pile Burning
- NSW RFS: Before you light that fire
- NSW EPA: Open burning - reducing air pollution from fires
We can help you
If you need more information about air quality or backyard burning, please contact our Public and Environmental Health Team:
- T: 02 4474 1310
- E: Council's Public and Environmental Health Team