ECan failing on smog limits

Environment Canterbury (ECan) is on a ministerial list of councils that will probably not achieve the required standard of air quality, even after its unpopular clampdown on older-style log burners and thermal imaging of suspect chimneys.

Air pollution is being monitored in 39 airsheds around the country. Twenty-two were likely to meet Government standards, said Environment Minister Amy Adams.

Canterbury is on the list of 17 not expected to achieve the standard of no more than three high-pollution days per year by 2016.

ECan has ramped up its attack on smog this year by thermally imaging chimneys and targeting older-style log burners. However, the moves are not enough to get the ministry's tick.

Commissioner David Bedford said he was not aware of the list and disagreed that ECan would not make the grade.

"I wasn't aware of the fact MfE [the Ministry for the Environment] has reached any of these conclusions . . we are doing our damndest to put in place in a management regime that will get us there," he said.

Canterbury is the smoggiest region in the country after Otago.

Adams said regions expected to meet the 2016 deadline included Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu-Wanganui, Greater Wellington, Dunedin, Hawke's Bay and Otago. None of ECan's airsheds would achieve the standards, she said.

Adams initially said she would release the rest of the list to The Press, but later said the information was "internal advice" and not publicly available.

There are harsh penalties - including government investigation and the appointment of commissioners - if an airshed does not meet the standards.

ECan already has commissioners at the helm.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson said ECan's methods this year felt "intimidating". "We were given such strong assurance they would behave in a manner which would be in partnership . . . it feels quite intimidating, actually, the way they have gone about it," she said.

Bedford defended Ecan. "Here we are trying to provide Christchurch people with good-quality air and we have a minority of people that don't care that much about good-quality air and are more concerned about whether or not they can have a fire."

He said no action had been taken against domestic house-holds since the earthquakes because ECan "did not want to make life more difficult", but now it had to shift to "compliance mode".

The Press