Rural burn-offs leave residents fuming

EMMA BAILEY
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014
timaru smoke rural burn-off
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

SMOKY OUTLOOK: Looking north from Timaru, smoke from fires sit along the plains.

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Concern is growing about the effect of rural burn-offs on Timaru's air.

Residents have written to The Timaru Herald about fires, particularly between Temuka and Timaru, and wondering if they are Environment Canterbury (ECan) sanctioned.

ECan has said burn-offs may affect air quality in urban areas and that smoke complaints should be directed to the pollution hotline, with investigations under way.

Timaru resident Ian Ross said he had seen burn-offs near Arowhenua Rd on Wednesday. "The trees are still green, with another heap ready to be set alight."

The smoke then blows into Timaru. "Timaru is unique. We have a problem with fog and no easterly wind coming to clear the smoke and fog away.

"The part that annoys me is ECan and the council jump up and down about people having fires. Then ECan will say people will have to get rid of their logburners. What about people on fixed incomes who can't afford it and what happens if we have another big snow?"

A possible solution would be to ban burn-offs during the winter, he said.

A Pleasant Point resident wrote in about burn-offs he had seen during the colder months.

"Fires have been burning for about two months, sometimes cars have to have their lights on on State Highway 8 and Kerrytown to see and some days you cannot see the mountains driving west from Timaru. Tourists must think they are in China.

"If they were burnt in spring winds it would be much less an issue."

An ECan spokesperson said it regularly monitors air quality within the urban areas of Timaru, Waimate and Geraldine.

"It is possible, depending on where the burn-offs were occurring, that some smoke may have drifted into urban areas and this could be picked up at our monitoring stations.

"Looking at our monitoring data from Thursday we've noticed higher than usual PM10 concentrations in Waimate and Geraldine and this could be related to burn-offs in the area."

Any complaints about smoke nuisance should be directed through the pollution hotline.

"Depending on the urgency of the issue we send out officers to investigate these complaints. These investigations can take some time, depending on the availability of officers and the specific circumstances involved.

"Outdoor burning in rural areas is generally permitted but there are a number of conditions that need to be met, including that the smoke doesn't cause a smoke nuisance. The investigations would determine if the activity meets these conditions."

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- The Timaru Herald

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