Bushfires Act NT

Bushfire is a natural part of the Northern Territory (NT) landscape and environment, and like most natural events, it must be managed to prevent impacts on property, industry and, in extreme cases, human life.

The new Bushfires Management Act provides the framework for managing bushfire in areas outside major NT towns. It was replaces the old Bushfires Act and commences on 1 November 2016

The NT has changed considerably since the inception of the old Bushfires Act more than three decades ago. 

For information on bushfire management, fire permits, survival plans and emergency information go to the Northern Territory Government website.

Changes affecting Bushfire Legislation 

Some of the biggest changes to Bushfires legislation include:

  • Clarifies the role of Bushfires NT
  • Provides greater protection and recognition of volunteer fire fighters
  • Establishes a new planning framework for bushfire management based upon wildfire risk, and the preparation of regional bushfire management plans in consultation with land owners and other stakeholders
  • Continues to be based on the principle that the land owner is ultimately responsible for fire management on that land
  • Continues to focus on fire management rather than fire exclusion
  • Clearly defines the roles of various stakeholders, including government, in bushfire management and strengthens the relationship between government and volunteer bushfire brigades
  • Retains the Bushfires Council and Regional Bushfires Committees and clarifies their roles through provision of terms of reference
  • Establishes a new capacity to prescribe bushfire management arrangements for an individual property where a bushfire risk assessment identifies that conditions on that property present a bushfire risk to neighbouring properties

Consultation and review

A public consultation process generated submissions from a broad cross section of stakeholders. A set of recommendations has been drawn from those submissions, along with additional expert advice on trends in contemporary bushfire management legislation around Australia.

The key themes to emerge from the submissions included calls to:

  • maintain the underlying principle that fire management is the responsibility of the landholder
  • retain the Bushfires Council and Regional Bushfire Committees as key stakeholder engagement bodies
  • formalise and clearly define the operational roles undertaken by Bushfires NT in different regions, including the bushfire emergency response role currently undertaken in high risk areas close to major population centres
  • recognise the different landscapes and risk profiles within the NT; recognise that they can change from season to season; and provide flexible and effective bushfire management arrangements
  • establish a clear chain of command incorporating Bushfires NT staff and volunteers
  • establish and ensure clarity of accountabilities and responsibilities of Bushfires NT, volunteer brigades and volunteers.

Read the Recommendations Paper - Review of the Bushfires Act (679.5 kb).

Submissions closed on 4 April 2016.

Read the law

Bushfires Management Act

Bushfires (Volunteer Bushfire Brigades) Regulations

Basic fire laws

Below is a summary of the basic fire laws in the NT, including information on permits to burn, total fire bans and fire protection zones.

Fire protection zones

Certain areas in the NT have been declared fire protection zones, which means fires can't be lit in those areas without a permit at any time of year.

The Territory's fire protection zones are:

  • all of the Vernon region - essentially the greater Darwin and Batchelor/Coomalie areas
  • 50km radius from Katherine post office
  • 50km radius from Tennant Creek post office
  • 50km radius from Alice Springs airport.

Fire for camping, cooking or urgently disposing of an animal carcass can only be lit in a fire protection zone if the nearest flammable matter to the fire is more than four metres away and the fire is fully extinguished before it is left.

Burning outside a fire protection zone

Fires can be lit outside a fire protection zone on your own land, without a permit, except if it's within a declared fire danger area.

Fire danger areas and permits to burn

During the fire season, a fire danger period may be declared over some parts of the Territory. When that happens, you must get a permit to burn from a Fire Warden or a Fire Control Officer.


When the fire danger rating is Very High or above, a total ban on lighting fires in the open may be put in place.

During a total fire ban, no fires of any kind may be lit in the open air. The one exception is fires used for cooking or boiling water, provided the nearest flammable matter is more than four metres away from the fire.

If there is a fire on your property that was lit before the beginning of a total fire ban, you must put it out. If you are unable to do so yourself, notify a Fire Warden or Fire Control Officer immediately.

Total fire bans are announced on local radio and in newspapers. When the ban is lifted, normal burning restrictions continue to apply.

For more information contact Bushfires NT.

Last updated: 05 December 2016