Gentle approach to smoking chimneys
More than 90 Timaruvians suspected their neighbours had smoky chimneys this winter, but none of the allegedly smoky households appear to have been prosecuted.
From April to September, Environment Canterbury's "smoky chimney hotline" received 92 separate complaints about chimneys in Timaru, up from 70 over the same period last year.
ECan spokeswoman Katherine Trought could not confirm whether there had been any prosecutions of those homes visited.
"We provided the people identified as having a smoky chimney with tips on how to reduce their smoke and a domestic home heating officer visited them to help resolve their smoke problem," she said.
"ECan will continue to work with these households and any others identified in the future, to reduce the contribution individual household smoke emissions are having on clear air and long-term community health."
The regional council is spending $600,000 this year on a Canterbury-wide campaign encouraging residents to let a neighbour know if their chimney is smoking too much. ECan and Ministry of Health research indicated poor home heating was responsible for about 90 per cent of Timaru's particulate pollution.
Timaru has recorded 30 nights this year where the particulate pollution exceeded the recommended health standard. This is an improvement on last year's 34 nights, but unless the number decreases to no more than three breaches by 2016, Timaru could face restrictions to development.
ECan air quality commissioner David Bedford said it had adopted an "educative, rather than regulative" approach over Timaru's last two winters.
"We've established a really good working relationship with the council and local health board. Whether we will move further and give the rules some more teeth depends what the community wants," Mr Bedford said.
"We know it's going to be a big ask to meet the 2016 target, but we're confident we can reach it."
Mr Bedford said ECan's new air plan would go out for public consultation next year.
"We're really keen to hear from the public ... but we know air quality is on a lot of people's minds," he said.
"The fact people are calling the hotline is encouraging."
Mr Bedford said ECan also offered Timaru residents up to $1000 to help improve their forms of home heating through its Clean Heat programme.
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