Open fires and coal burners on the way out

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014

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Sitting in front of the open fire at home or stoking up the burner with coal will be things of the past for Invercargill and Gore residents in years to come.

Environment Southland is bringing in new air quality rules that will result in decades-long heating habits having to change for many residents.

Environment Southland resource planner Jason Domigan said open fires would be banned from homes in the two southern towns from September next year.

And non-compliant burners, including those that used coal, would be phased out between next year and 2029.

Open fires and coal burners emitted much more smoke than newer heating appliances, he said.

"Coal is still allowed but it will be phased out unless a compliant coal burner comes onto the market."

Only approved wood burners would be compliant, Domigan said. It would be massive change for many people but the government had set down air quality regulations that had to be met, he said.

People who did not abide by the new regulations would be educated before any enforcement action was taken.

Environment Southland was aware some of the changes would be costly for homeowners.

"That's why this council is not going to take this lightly. We know our community is going to struggle with this," Domigan said.

It was a fine balancing act - the council did not want to see the health of residents improve by reducing smoke emissions but then see more people getting sick when living in cold houses because they could not afford new heating appliances.

Invercargill and Gore had consistently exceeded national air quality standards in the past five years and action was required, he said.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said the new rules were being staggered to give people time to make changes to their home heating systems.

Rules were also being implemented to address air quality issues associated with outdoor burning and some farm practices in Southland.

Some of the new rules begin on September 6, but the public has until November 3 to make submissions about any aspect of them.

To see what the new rules are, go to the Environment Southland website.

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- The Southland Times

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