Punt for door-knocking smoke signal

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 28/11/2012

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The Richmond community is keen to get council enforcers going door-knocking to reduce smoke pollution in the winter.

Around 50 people attended a meeting chaired by Nelson local Glen Lauder at Richmond's Club Waimea last night. Tasman District Council announced earlier this month that 85 people it had identified as high-volume smoke emitters were invited to come along, as well as interested members of the public.

Nelson City Council resource scientist Paul Sheldon said Richmond had a serious problem with excessive winter smoke. Last winter the Richmond airshed exceeded national air quality standards 16 times, a step back since 2011's 11.

After a 2001 peak of 165 quality breaches, Nelson City breached the standard only three times last winter despite similar weather conditions as Richmond. It issued one $300 fine and 34 abatement notices requiring home woodburners to be either capped or removed.

Mr Sheldon said heightened levels of PM10 particles in the air caused coughs, asthma symptoms, bronchitis, respiratory illnesses and in some cases, death. Research clearly pointed to domestic woodburners being behind the problem. Home heating accounted for 83 per cent of PM10 particles and 87 per cent of the more dangerous PM2.5s. Transport and industry made up the rest.

"I suspect that some of the basic messages of good woodburner operation need to be reinforced," he said.

Tasman District Council policy planner Mary-Anne Baker said the council had focused on education so far. "It was working really well and you might say we've picked all the easy fruit," she said.

Lorraine Klenner, of central Richmond, said her household had received a letter complaining her woodburner had been producing excess smoke this winter. Ms Klenner was widely supported when she said she would have preferred a council employee to speak with her in person when her chimney was smoking too much so that she had the chance to identify what caused the smoke.

"It was like, oh my gosh, this is awful," she said. "I'm actually a law-abiding citizen and I hate feeling guilty . . . I just think it would have been better if they had come and knocked on my door at the time."

Ms Baker said the council had already been looking at sending door-knockers around on winter nights and were likely to take the idea on board. She said this addressed the "80/20" aspect of the problem, where 20 per cent of wood-burning homes caused 80 per cent of the pollution.

She was unwilling to compare Tasman's progress with the Nelson region's expensive transformation.

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"We can rely on people to do the right thing without us having to spend $4 million of ratepayers' money, at least that's what I'm hoping."

- The Nelson Mail

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