'Years' before hi-tech woodburners on market

A group representing New Zealand's domestic woodburner industry has warned Nelson homeowners that moves in Canterbury to allow new woodburner technology are "years away" from being available to the public.

New Zealand Home Heating Association president Gavin Edwards said they had decided to speak publicly about the situation out of concern that Nelsonians might believe new woodburners were imminent.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said last week that the Nelson City Council was "awaiting with interest the outcome of new burner technology that Environment Canterbury (ECan) is investigating for Christchurch".

The mayor said any potential changes in Nelson "wouldn't happen as quickly as this winter as it would require accommodating these in Nelson's current air quality plan".

ECan's air plan has recently been changed to allow ultra-low-emission woodburners, though there are none on the market that meet the standards and a testing regime has not been developed.

The mayor's comments have drawn flak from his mayoralty rival Rachel Reese and fellow councillor Eric Davy, who questioned how they could be the council's views when they were yet to be discussed by the council.

Mr Miccio said they were his views and those of council staff.

Ms Reese announced on Thursday she planned to look at ways rules could be changed to make it easier for people to use woodburners in some areas through a review of Nelson's Air Quality Plan.

Mr Edwards said reference to an ECan plan change, and Nelsonians being afforded the same rights as Cantabrians, propelled a myth that "a new army of ultra-low-emission woodburners are just around the corner and will be some form of divine resolution".

He said the only reason ECan had enabled such a ruling to take place was because they used the power of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to implement a plan change.

"If they had followed due process through the Resource Management Act, it would have never have seen the light of day," Mr Edwards said.

The Home Heating Association is a trade organisation made up of most of New Zealand's leading manufacturers, retailers and installers of domestic woodburning appliances.

"As the industry body that represents nearly all of the manufacturers, retailers and installers of woodburners in New Zealand, we feel we must alert the public to the facts and not the rumours," Mr Edwards said.

He said ECan had made a change to its local air plan that would allow ultra-low-emission woodburners to be installed and used, if they could be developed and proven to meet highly specific criteria.

"Unfortunately they do not have a definite list of what these criteria actually are."

Woodburners would have to be tested and pass a completely new testing regime, Mr Edwards said, but at present there was only a theoretical regime. It would need to be developed, trialled, proven and IANZ accredited before it could be implemented - a process that would take years, not months.

Mr Edwards said woodburners would have to perform to "real life" emission limits never achieved before.

At present there were no appliances anywhere in the world that could be proven to perform to such limits.

"What is proven is that New Zealand manufacturers have already developed and produce woodburners that are some of the cleanest burning on the planet."

Mr Edwards said it was now evident to the association that it was better to educate woodburner users on how to use them more effectively, and to burn only good quality dry fuel.

"This would will have much bigger impacts on air quality than any slight increments in burner performance.

"We would encourage Nelsonians to work with their council to develop educational plans and improve the fuel supply chain," Mr Edwards said.

The Nelson Mail