Hard line likely on fire-loving Blenheim

Open fires and bonfires could be banned under possible clean air rules for Blenheim.

Other changes possible in a review of the Marlborough District Council's regional plan were likely to involve phasing out ineffective woodburners older than 15 years.

The council's environment committee yesterday heard from consultant Emily Wilton that Blenheim's air quality did not comply with national air quality standards. The council had to comply with the national rules by September 2016, which required an improvement of 38 per cent.

The number of breaches measured at the Redwoodtown monitoring station dropped from 2006 to 2009, but had risen again since then.

Ms Wilton was unsure why that was, but council building group manager Bill East said his inspectors saw a trend of new houses having heat pumps installed during that time. Now, inspectors went into houses for woodburner installations and saw a heatpump sitting on the wall.

"People had too high bills with the heat pumps and were not satisfied with the heat they were getting."

Mr East backed up Ms Wilton's assertion that some people had tampered with woodburners to make them inefficient, so that the fire could be banked overnight. He said inspectors had seen a lot of tampering with fires.

There were installers, not operating in the district any more, who had shown owners how to alter the airflows on the woodburners, or did it themselves, he said.

In Blenheim, 92 per cent of the particles less than 10 microns in diameter in the air were from house fires, 2 per cent from traffic, 5 per cent from outside burning, and 1 per cent from industry.

Ms Wilton said a mixture of education, incentives, and regulations might be needed to achieve the air quality standard.

Whatever could be achieved through education was the most cost-effective. That included teaching people to burn only dry wood, to clean chimneys regularly, and to install national environment standard-compliant woodburners.

But it might be necessary to ban open fires and outdoor burning of rubbish, and refuse discharge permit applications that would increase particulate numbers in the air, she said.

However, Blenheim had needed only a relatively small drop to meet the standard, and could look at measures Nelson had used to achieve much greater improvements in air quality.

The Marlborough Express