Got an old log burner? You may need to apply for an extension to use it in Timaru

The latest message from ECan about home heating in Timaru is to upgrade wood burners older than 15 years or seek ...
JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN/FAIRFAX NZ

The latest message from ECan about home heating in Timaru is to upgrade wood burners older than 15 years or seek permission to extend its use.

Time has run out for open fires and old log burners in some Timaru homes.

Homeowners in the Timaru Clean Air Zone must apply for an extension from Environment Canterbury (ECan) if they need to use an open fire or log burner 15 or older this winter.

No open fires or wood burners older than 15 years can be lit without approval, and for those allowed to use them there must be no visible smoke this year.

Applications can be made online via the ECan website. Those seeking the extension have until April 2017 to apply.

ECan started distributing information to Timaru real estate agencies on Wednesday after public confusion led to realtors and retailers asking for clarification.

The new ECan posters state for owners of a section smaller than two hectares: "If your wood burner is 15 years or older you must apply to ECan if you need to continue to use it until winter 2018."

An ECan spokesman said there was the understanding that replacing an open fire or burner could take time and money.

"We're working with community groups and residents to ensure that switching to a cleaner source of heating isn't a financial burden and we have a number of ways to help people," he said.

"It's important to us that people remain warm in their homes. We will not look to prosecute those who are not in a position to upgrade their burner because of hardship."

Financial help and subsidies from Energy Smart ranging from $500 to $5000 may be available for those struggling to replace their home heating. Under the proposed Air Plan, ultra-low emission burners, once installed, have no time limit on their use. Low emission burners can only be used for up to 15 years or until 1 January 2019, whichever is later, the ECan spokesman said.

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Waimate and Geraldine homeowners have longer to prepare - until January 2020 - to comply with the fuel burner rule, ECan's website says.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand district forum leader Julian Blanchard said it had been difficult answering questions from potential buyers on wood burner and open fires as there was so much conflicting information available from a variety of sources.

He had met with an ECan home heating officer over the last few weeks to get the latest, correct information. She explained to him that the time lines for the upgrade were to ensure a comfortable transition for everyone.

"It's great seeing ECan being pro-active. It would be good to have the same information going forward on council and other websites."

Penalties for not being compliant are likely to be imposed from 2018.

"I think Timaru is now getting the message something has to be done about air quality and and ECan are offering a good incentive to upgrade. I think the message is getting stronger that we have to change because [air pollution] is causing us damage," Blanchard said.

Insurance Council of New Zealand operations manager Terry Jordan said homeowners were OK at the moment but if they did not comply they should check with their insurer whether they were covered or not in the event of an incident from a non-compliant fire unit.

"Some insurers had a caveat in a policy with a clause that required compliance with current laws and regulations. If they are not complying and suffer a loss and have that clause in the policy, they may find an insurer can decline a claim."

 - Stuff

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