Heat goes on over woodburner rules

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 02/05/2014
Tim Skinner
BURNING ISSUE: Nelson city councillor Tim Skinner has been contacted by a number of young families struggling to heat their homes.

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The heat is building on Nelson City Council to change its rules on woodburners, with one of its own councillors criticising a lack of movement on the issue.

Councillor Tim Skinner said he had been contacted by a number of young families struggling to heat their homes and pay expensive power bills.

"The amount of emails and phone calls I have had and people I have visited that are really genuinely hardworking people who are really struggling with the cost of electricity to heat their homes," he said.

Skinner said the older generation and younger families were feeling the brunt of the policy and heat pumps did not heat the home in the same way as woodburners.

Skinner said many councillors seemed opposed to changing the rules over woodburner use.

"I think they've got a blindspot on how real the hardship goes," he said.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said she stood by her election campaign promise for a review of Nelson's air quality plan rules on the use of woodburners.

Next Thursday the planning and regulatory committee will consider staff reports on the issue.

"As much as I can personally support a review I need the majority of councillors to also support a review," she said.

Committee chairman Brian McGurk said it was a complex issue and there were no easy answers.

"We've gone from one of the worst air pollution problems in the country to the stage now that the air quality in the city is some of the best over the winter months," he said.

"I accept that there is a great deal of expense and pain for some people, but this is about making sure that people in Nelson are living in warm dry houses, this is what we are wanting, and that the air they are breathing is clean."

He said woodburners may be one possible solution.

The city had not yet met the national standards for air quality, but "was well, well on the way".

McGurk said in December the council asked staff to review the council's policy. It would be presented at the meeting next week with input from Environment Canterbury, the Ministry of Environment, and health and legal professionals.

Nelson resident Melissa Short has started a petition calling on the council to review and relax its rules to allow the use of low-emission woodburners.

"We are questioning why our council continues to push these rules so hard, when our air quality in two out of three airsheds meets national environment standards.

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"By and large our city has clean air. Yet we still have the toughest regulations as far as I can tell of any council in New Zealand. There is no other council I am aware of who has capped a chimney and closed off the heat source to somebody's home irrespective of where their pollution levels were at.

"Many I spoke to at different councils expressed a very real surprise at this means of enforcement."

Another resident, Harry Pearson, is also demanding the council relax the rules and do more about smoky fires, which were used incorrectly, he said.

"The real battle is to ensure that people use their burners correctly, not the type of woodburner that people have," he said.

"Virtually every woodburner is capable of burning efficiently with very few pollutants released, as long as dry wood is used and burnt correctly. If there was more of a clampdown on smoky fires and the type of wood people are burning, then I am sure that we would not have the pollution levels that the council is concerned about." A council spokeswoman said it had run education campaigns about using woodburners correctly.

- Nelson

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