Radical fire bans 'almost inevitable'

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 10:49 05/06/2014

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Environment Canterbury commissioner David Bedford says it is "almost inevitable" open fires will be banned in Timaru within three years.

The regional council has released a discussion document, asking for feedback on its upcoming air plan.

Bedford said nothing is set in stone, and ECan wants to hear any suggestions from the public.

However, if Timaru is to meet its air quality targets, then it is likely all open fires will be outlawed.

"It is almost inevitable. Timaru has some tough targets to meet, and we're looking to the public to provide us with some answers and suggestions before we actually put the plan together," Bedford said.

"We don't have to do this phase of consultation, but we feel it's necessary."

Timaru has already recorded 10 days this year where the particulate pollution average exceeded the health standard limits of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air over a 24 hour period.

It is believed there are more than 120 homes in Timaru which use wood and coal on open fires. Each produces an average of 294 grams of particulate pollution per day it operates.

An open fire is defined as a "fireplace with no doors built into the house, where the smoke is vented through a chimney rather than a flue".

There are also an estimated 2400 non-compliant active woodburners older than 15 years, which each emit an average 100 grams of particulate per day of burning.

Bedford said the document's proposal to ban the use of any woodburner other than pellet fires in new Timaru homes was "only a starting point".

"We need to get the discussion going. We're not saying we will do this, we want to hear from the public. It is likely there will be stronger regulations, but the mix is yet to be worked out," he said.

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.

Bedford said ECan could expand this initiative if the public desired it. "Many low-income households might struggle to afford the costs of changing to a cleaner heating appliance ... there are other initiatives we could consider, such as low-interest loans, or expanding the rating for the current scheme."

Bedford said there would be a host of public meetings in Timaru about ECan's proposals.

ECan will release its notified air plan in February next year, but it will not be until October next year before hearings on the plan take place.

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- The Timaru Herald

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