Forest & Rural Fires Act – changes that affect you

The Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017 (FENZ Act) has significantly changed the liability landscape for those that cause uncontrolled rural fires and those who suffer loss because of them.

Those who cause rural fires now face the threat of criminal liability, possible imprisonment and hefty fines that are payable directly to the Crown and are no longer strictly liable to pay compensatory damages for the losses they cause.  Offences have been created to impose penalties on those who illegally light fires, or leave a burning or smouldering substance to get out of control.

Under the new Act, those who suffer loss because of rural fire will need to establish a common law cause of action to recover compensatory damages and much more will be required for successful recovery than simply proving the cause of a fire. That means those who suffer losses as a result of the fire need to establish that the person who caused the loss did so recklessly or negligently.   Claims for losses are becoming larger and, as a result of the new legislation, more complicated.

The key takeaway for Austinsure clients – especially our aviation clients – is that, rather than being a separate sublimit shown and required on your liability insurance,  insuring against common law liability for rural fire risk now becomes part of the overall third-party liability limit under Public Liability and/or Aviation liability insurance.

For more information on this contact Neil (neil@austinsure.co.nz)

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