Smoky Timaru chimneys draw complaints

SMOGGY AFTERNOON: Timaru, pictured about 4pm yesterday - the town has one of the country's worst air pollution records.
SMOGGY AFTERNOON: Timaru, pictured about 4pm yesterday - the town has one of the country's worst air pollution records.

Smoky Timaru chimneys have drawn more than 100 complaints in the last year, including 21 since January.

However, none of the complaints has resulted in prosecution, as Environment Canterbury continues its policy of "education".

ECan spokeswoman Katherine Trought yesterday confirmed its pollution hotline received 107 separate complaints about smoky chimneys or unsightly burning over the last year.

Each of the complaints had been followed up with a visit from an ECan compliance officer, but so far, there had not been a single abatement notice or prosecution.

"We find that an educative approach is the best way to improve people's behaviour, and we will be continuing this approach this winter," Trought said.

"In most cases, we provide the home-owner with advice about how to ensure their log-burner or heating device is operated to the best standards. As far as we know, most people change their behaviour after the visit, although there might be a small number of repeat call-outs."

Trought said ECan would launch another education campaign this winter, encouraging home-owners to switch to more efficient heating appliances.

The campaign is expected to cost about $400,000. A similar campaign last winter cost about $600,000.

"We're modifying the campaign as we go along, but it's all part of our efforts to help improve public awareness of the air pollution issue," Trought said. "Over time, we hope it will work in much the same way that anti-smoking campaigns have made smoking less socially acceptable."

The town has one of the worst air pollution records in the country - in the past decade it has recorded 30 to 50 high-pollution nights a year.

By 2016, it is allowed to record only three or face possible restrictions to development.

Trought said ECan would release a discussion document on a proposed air quality plan for Timaru in June.

"There will be a long public consultation process, but we are looking at how we can make people replace their non-compliant log-burners," she said. There are 2500 non-compliant burners in the district.

"However, this is something that the whole community needs to get involved in ... there are simple ways to ensure people's log-burners burn cleaner."

ECan's clean heat initiative allows Timaru community service card holders up to $2000 to replace their old burners with more efficient appliances, such as heat pumps or pellet fires.

Trought said it would review the subsidy after it implemented its air quality plan.

The Timaru Herald