Irrigation systems in rural New Zealand can be handy when it comes to fighting fires but difficulties getting access to the water around Hawke's Bay has made the job difficult for rural fire staff.
Irrigation New Zealand said the increase of on-farm storage ponds, particularly in Canterbury, had benefited rural firefighting crews by providing additional sources of fire-fighting water.
But Central Hawke's Bay's emergency management and bylaws officer Bruce Kitto said while the comments were correct, at times incompatible fittings meant the fire service couldn't use the water.
"Rural ponds are extensively used for rural firefighting but certainly in CHB most of the irrigation water is coming out of ground bores and unless they have couplings compatible with what is carried on fire appliances it is very difficult to access the water."
He said the major water scheme in North Otago was a good example of proactive work by an irrigation project which had set up hydrants to allow firefighting appliances to connect.
"It is very difficult, and also very expensive, for fire appliances to carry a myriad of different coupling connections and it would certainly help if irrigators spoke with local fire authorities in their area to make sure they have available compatible couplings on their pipeworks."
A recent fire in CHB was on a property with extensive irrigation systems but compatibility issues with fire-truck equipment made it virtually impossible to access the water there.
Mr Kitto said Irrigation New Zealand's comment that "green grass doesn't burn" was not accurate.
"It certainly will not ignite as easily or burn as fast or as quickly as dry vegetation but I have good photos of a recent fire near Otane where lush green grass on the roadside burned very well."
He agreed green, irrigated crops acted as a buffer for advancing vegetation fire and could help contain such a fire.
"And this is well-documented in several CHB fires over the years, one of the latest being a large fire on Butlers Rd, near Tikokino, in January 2011."
Mr Kitto said conditions were extremely dry in most of CHB. Some parts of the district, such as Porangahau, and some of the coastal strip had several good thunderstorm showers between Christmas and New Year but most of the area had "very little if any rainfall and is very parched".
"Thankfully, people have been, on the whole, very good and there have only been four vegetation fires attended since Christmas. Two were very small roadside fires, possibly caused by cigarette butts or broken glass, one was a fire in a pine plantation, caused by a power line coming adrift from its pole, and one was an illegal bonfire on Pourerere Beach.
"Fireworks were a bit of a headache over the holiday period. In a total fire ban, fireworks are illegal but that aspect still requires a lot of public education and is something that will be discussed at an Eastern Region Rural Fire Committee meeting in the coming months."