Wood burners key to meeting air targets

The Timaru community will need to pull together if clean-air targets are to be met.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) launched a review of its air plan yesterday, highlighting the need for the community's support and understanding of the issue.

ECan air commissioner David Bedford said the concept was complex but he believed progress would be made by 2016.

"If you have a wood burner, you have a key part to play. This winter we will be asking you to consider changing to another form of low-emission heating to help improve air quality.

"However, if you want to continue to use a wood burner, then we are asking you to sign up to the challenge of burning smoke-free most of the time."

Timaru has already had nine high pollution nights this year, when the particulate pollution level (PM10) has exceeded the recommended health standard of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

There were 29 high pollution nights in Timaru last year.

ECan aims to get that figure down to three by 2016 and one by 2020.

"The only reason we are doing this is from a health point of view," Bedford said.

Social media was one avenue ECan was exploring in a bid to get the message across to more people.

He said a range of options would be considered.

"One option is, there are going to be some people out there who will find it difficult to spend the money to improve their heating device," he said.

"We could ask the community, do you want to provide some funding to help those people?"

Education was the main focus of ECan's upgraded policy.

ECan marketing lead Jo Dawkins said many people underestimated the amount of kindling needed to get a fire going with a limited amount of smoke.

"We're hoping we can get people to share with each other the tips and tricks they have [for] their particular wood burner."

To do that, ECan will work in conjunction with the Facebook page moreheatnosmoke, which aims to educate and offer tips on what works well.

Most people are oblivious to the fact they have a smoky chimney, Bedford said.

"For a lot of people, you light your fire, you sit inside where it's nice and warm and cosy and you don't look outside to see the smoke coming out."

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Nigel Trainor said there was evidence high pollution levels of PM10 do affect health.

However, other factors such as smoking made it difficult to gauge the true severity of the problem in South Canterbury.

The Timaru Herald