Woodburner threat resisted

Restricting the use of woodburners to reduce air pollution met resistance from some people at Environment Canterbury's (ECan) air plan review consultations yesterday at West End Hall.

The Timaru Air Plan has has been in place since 2002 but increasing breaches of air pollution standards have forced a review. So far this year there have been 14 breaches. Last year there were 30 high days.

The air monitors are located at Anzac Square and Washdyke.

ECan senior air quality analyst Teresa Aberkane said samples were taken from Anzac Square because the pollution drifted from the west and north on its way east and accumulated in that area, enabling a large part to be measured.

Because Washdyke industry was controlled strictly by the Resource Management Act it caused fewer high pollution days. The main source of the particulate matter PM10 in the Washdyke area was home heating, at 92 per cent, with industry causing 3 per cent and motor vehicles 3 per cent.

In Timaru, home heating was responsible for 88 per cent, industry 5 per cent and 7 per cent was attributed to motor vehicles.

More than 50 people attended the first meeting and about 25 the second one held yesterday.

ECan commissioner David Bedford warned that if the pollution incidents did not decrease an extreme scenario for the future would be banning burning wood completely.

Former Grey Power president Les Howard said he thought the problem was not the woodburners but the type of wood which was burned. He blamed pine for being smokier than other woods and being the most common used. In his Yunca woodburner he noted that larch, oregon and poplar only smoked for the first 10 minutes.

Retired freezing worker Peter McAuley pointed out that more education was needed so wet wood was not used. Other people suggested wood merchants should be able to only sell dry wood.

Voicing her concern that some families could not afford to be warm, social worker Jackie Newton wanted to know the evidence ECan had to show which was worse for health, breathing polluted air or being cold. ECan is working with the South Canterbury District Health Board to address both.

Suggestions made to reduce high pollution days also included retired engineer Max Willetts' idea to use power-generated wind turbines to blow away the smoke on still days and create electricity in summer.

The two consultations yesterday will be followed by a draft air plan, to be released in early 2015. Public submissions will then be considered by an independent panel. The completed document will be ready in early 2016.

The target is only three high pollution days by 2016 and one by 2020.

The Timaru Herald