Clean-air burners get the go-ahead

CHILLY START: Low mist and smog hangs over Christchurch.
CHILLY START: Low mist and smog hangs over Christchurch.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has approved changes to Christchurch's Air Plan that will allow low-emission woodburners in new homes.

Brownlee today announced plans to redefine some of the region's Clean Air Zones, to ensure new urban areas will be covered by the same air quality rules that protect existing residential areas of the region.

The announcement comes six months after ECan commissioners asked Brownlee to use his special powers to change the air plan to allow low-emission burners in new homes or those without an existing burner.

Clean Air Zones are used by Ecan to manage air quality controls.

Brownlee said it was important for new developments in the region to ''fit with the work Ecan has already done in improving our air quality''.

"Smog and emission levels have long been an issue for Christchurch, and despite the challenges we face since the earthquakes, we should not go backwards in our aim to improve quality of life," he said.

Brownlee's decision has been welcomed by ECan commissioner David Bedford.

"We know that Christchurch people want to be able to burn wood as it is a good sustainable form of home heating,'' Bedford said.

''Changing the air plan rules will incentivise the home heating industry to develop technology to produce burners which have so few emissions they can be put into new homes without compromising air quality.''

Bedford said there were ''promising prototypes'' for the burners, and a set of standards had been developed for the home heating industry.

The realignment of Clean Air Zones to provide for new areas of growth after the earthquakes would also help protect air quality across the city, and ensure there are no inequalities around installing wood burners in new homes.

The announcement comes as temperatures in the region begin to plummet and Christchurch sits on the cusp of winter.

Patches of mist and smoke hung low over Christchurch as residents woke to a frosty morning today.
Another frost is on the cards on Thursday morning.

Temperatures fell to minus 1.3 degrees Celsius at Christchurch Airport last night - not quite the coldest night of the year which was on May 1, when -1.4C was recorded.

Environment Canterbury said despite higher levels of PM10 particulates late on Tuesday night, it fell well short of being a high-pollution day as averaged across a full 24 hours.

Tuesday's pollution averaged 30 micrograms of particulates. A high-pollution day has an average of 50 micrograms.

However, the St Albans monitoring site did record an hourly value of 180 micrograms of PM10 about 1am on Wednesday morning.

The Press