Clampdown on 8000 polluting wood burners

SHELLEY ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014

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Homes still using older wood burners will be targeted in a renewed air-pollution crackdown.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) said yesterday its post-earthquake amnesty on non-complying wood burners 15 years or older was over.

Commissioner David Bedford said starting next month, enforcement officers would be knocking on the doors of 6000 to 8000 homes believed to still have older burners.

Homes with clean-air approved burners still producing too much smoke, through wet wood or burning rubbish, would also be targeted and identified through thermal imaging technology.

"It's been three to four years now and we feel now is the time to tighten up the enforcement side of things," he said.

Exceptions would be granted.

"If life is still pretty tough through the earthquakes or even if you were badly affected by flooding, please call and let us know," Bedford said.

Fines ranging from $300 to $1000 would be used reluctantly and as a last resort, he said.

ECan figures show 23 per cent of Christchurch homes still used wood burners.

Canterbury had some of the worst air pollution rates nationally and data showed 80 per cent of the problem was wood burners, Bedford said.

Christchurch's geography contributes to the winter air pollution problem. Smoke becomes trapped under layers of warmer air, meaning it cannot rise and blow away.

This could lead to health issues, including extreme cardiac and respiratory problems.

Bedford said high pollution nights had decreased from 50 on average per winter in the early 2000s to the 15 recorded last year.

Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman, Ruth Dyson, said she was concerned ECan's advertising campaign would scaremonger.

"ECan commissioners have given us a categorical assurance no one will have undue pressure put on them if the only other alternative is they go cold this winter - and I believe them," she said.

Canterbury Communities' Earthquake Recovery Network spokeswoman Leanne Curtis said she approved of ECan's approach and encouraged people to call if they needed to use their old burner.

ECan is battling to meet the government air quality standards, which aim for a maximum of three high pollution days a year by September 2016.

"Our current projections aren't that flash - we aren't going to make it," Bedford said.

The new air plan is expected to be ready for public consultation in June and Bedford hoped ultra-low emission wood burners would be on the market next year.

ECan has also been working with wood merchants in the city to encourage them to sell only good-burning wood.

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Which wood burners are allowed this winter?

Non-complying wood burners 15 years or older are not allowed to be used in Christchurch between April 1 and September 31. In Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Ashburton, older non- complying wood burners cannot be used at all. Clean- air approved burners can be used.

What has been allowed since the quake?

If someone is waiting for earthquake repairs or rebuild they could use their older non-complying burner.

How will ECan enforce?

ECan officers have a list of 8000 properties and will be visiting them to discuss options. Officers will also have thermal imaging equipment to see which chimneys are too smokey.

What happens if you are caught?

Fines between $300 and $1000 can be issued.

Will anyone be exempt?

Yes, those who are experiencing financial hardship, waiting for earthquake repairs or have flooding issues. ECan must be notified on (03) 366 4663 or 0800 76 55 88.

What can you replace with?

If your burner is not approved, you can replace it with a heatpump, a pellet fire, a flued gas fire or an approved clean-air burner.

- The Press

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