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Keeping warm 'more important' than rules

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2013
Logburner
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ

BENDING RULES: Alicia Sinclair enjoys the warmth of a logburner in their North New Brighton home.

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Nick and Alicia Sinclair technically can't use their logburner this winter, but with snow and freezing temperatures expected this weekend they're happily flouting the rules.

The logburner in the family home is more than 15 years old, meaning it cannot be used between April and September under Environment Canterbury's (ECan) clean air rules.

In February the Sinclairs received a letter from ECan reminding them to invest in a cleaner form of heating before the cold weather arrived, but they have chosen to ignore it ... with ECan's blessing.

Nick Sinclair said keeping his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter Mikayla warm was more important than spending money they did not have to install another form of heating.

"If we have a big snowstorm then you need a fireplace ... it's heating, it's everything, you can cook on it."

He said they made sure they used only good quality dry wood to ensure limited pollutants were produced and planned to save up and replace it when ultra-low emission burners became available.

Under current rules, woodburners cannot be installed in new homes, including those that have to be rebuilt after the quakes.

People with logburners in their current home cannot install one in a new property if they move.

However last month, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee used his special quake powers to allow ultra-low emission burners in new homes.

However, ultra-low emission burners are not on the market and it is not known when they will be available.

ECan's air portfolio director, Katherine Trought, said that in an emergency or a severe weather event keeping warm was the top priority.

People needed to exercise common sense and use the burner if it was their only means to keep warm.

"We are treating all these situations on a case-by-case basis and taking a pragmatic approach," she said.

Trought said if people were in earthquake-damaged homes waiting for rebuild or repair, they could use their 15-year-old-plus burner. But she asked they ring ECan so it was recorded.

Christchurch Log Burner Action Group spokesman Graham Pownceby said ECan needed to give people like the Sinclairs a grace period.

AIR POLLUTION RISK LOW

People firing up their logburners because of Christchurch's wintry conditions are unlikely to affect the city's air pollution levels.

Blue Skies weather forecaster Tony Trewinnard said pollution occurred on frosty clear nights when there was a temperature inversion - with warmer air higher up trapping pollutants below it.

However, when there was wind or rain it moved the pollution or smog around, breaking the inversion layer up.

He said the forecast meant Christchurch was unlikely to have any high pollution nights this week.

But he expected it to be frosty on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.

"These nights are expected to have frost and relatively light winds so I don't think people need to be concerned about air pollution until next week."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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