Council puts burner policy under review

Rules for woodburners in Nelson will be reviewed in a move residents hope will provide cosier homes by next winter.

The Nelson City Council decided yesterday to review the policy that has seen older woodburners progressively phased out in designated areas to improve the city's air quality.

Woodburner advocate Roseanne Williams was delighted with the move.

"That sounds terrific," she said. "It really sounds like they are moving in the right direction. We've been hoping they would review this and hopefully the council will adjust the current policy before winter 2014 bites."

Many residents have criticised the council policy, saying woodburners are a cheap and efficient method to warm their homes.

Some residents missed the phase-out dates to replace their older woodburners with other approved devices, and say the council has lacked understanding.

Older woodburners could not be replaced in some parts of the city from January last year, and in homes without an existing woodburner, only electric heating such as heat pumps, low emission pellet fires or gas or diesel burners can be used.

Mrs Williams and her husband Gary are in mediation with the council after appealing a notice instructing them to stop using their woodburner.

Mrs Williams hoped the council would get its act together and bring in changes before winter next year. "It's really encouraging they are revisiting this issue in December as opposed to waiting till we are freezing again in June or July," she said.

Mayor Rachel Reese said the move was in response to community concern. All councillors supported the "stop and review" of woodburner rules, but many said whatever policy came from the review should not compromise the progress on the city's air quality.

Planning and regulatory committee chairman Brian McGurk said there had been huge improvements to Nelson's air quality through significant investment by the council and the community. But after 10 years of the new standards a review was timely.

The science behind testing air quality would be looked at and evidence-based research would inform any new policy.

The review was about fairness and equity. He was aware of the issues around boundary lines for where woodburners were allowed or not allowed, but boundaries would still need to be drawn.

The council would also review phase-out dates.

Mrs Williams believed this was a positive step. "Those who got caught out have a chance to get a clean burning woodburner installed."

She hoped the review would also look at how air pollution was measured in different parts of the city as the policy had discriminated "against who's allowed to burn and who isn't allowed to burn" . "Where our house is, the air quality was never tested, never measured and that is one of our big issues.

"Everybody across the street is merrily going their way and we are on the wrong side of the road and this has happened in several instances around the city where it just seems to be unfair that people are deprived of woodburner heat in the wintertime by virtue of these lines drawn all over the city," she said.

Nelson Grey Power president Neville Male said he was happy with the council's decision.

"Prior to the election of the new council, Nelson Greypower lobbied very hard on behalf of the older persons in the community who were being badly affected during the winter by not having approval to operate woodburners," he said. "In the future more older people will no longer have to suffer in cold, damp homes which has been a major reason for the ill health that our older people have been faced with."

Mr Male said the Government endorsed warm homes and promoted the use of approved woodburners as an option while the council had been against the burners. He hoped any changes would happen as quickly as possible. He would wait for the council's decision about how to proceed, but Greypower was "certainly not going to be in favour of some sort of new regime that is going to require some sort of new technology that is going to be simply unaffordable"

The council will look at Environment Canterbury's use of simpler resource consent for approved burners and promotions to encourage owners to maintain their burners and use dry seasoned wood, which caused less pollution.

It would also work with the Environment Ministry for advice on new burner technology.

The council said it would complete the review quickly and hoped to have a clear direction before winter 2014.

It would not reconsider its position on open fires, which remain banned.

The Nelson Mail