Retrofits, repeal all-but ruled out as Timaru approaches clean air deadline
There appears no chance the owners of older style wood burners in Timaru and Waimate will be allowed to use them even if they are fitted with new technology, it has been confirmed.
Furthermore, there appears little chance a contentious rule requiring householders to stop using those old burners will be repealed without a potentially lengthy, costly legal exercise.
Late Monday, Timaru's mayor appeared to dash hopes the Canterbury Mayoral Forum might somehow intervene in the process of imposing elements of Environment Canterbury's air plan.
But the chairman of the group that may seek its help said the forum was just one of a suite of options that includes - at the very end of the list - the prospect of a judicial review.
The regional council is under fire for banning the use of wood burners that are 15 years or older. Owners have until October 31 to apply to replace them with low emission types.
The newly-formed South Canterbury Regional Air Plan Liaison Group says it wants the rule ditched and the deadline abandoned. It wants other, potentially less onerous clean air options explored.
Householders can keep their old burners - but the Canterbury Air Regional Plan says they cannot use them, Environment Canterbury air portfolio director Katherine Trought said.
"The Air Plan is quite clear - wood burners that are 15 years or older cannot be used and that is not likely to change.
"It would require a change to the plan. This is a legal process and the development of the current plan took five nearly years."
Asked whether there was any prospect of the council considering the retrofitting of old burners, and the prospect of old ones being used if they burned cleanly, the position was clear.
"No. Each model of wood burner has to be tested in laboratory conditions to qualify for its low emission status," she said.
"An individual retrofitted old burner would have to be taken to the laboratory, tested, and returned to the home, a cost that would far exceed the cost of a new burner."
On Sunday, liaison group chairman Mark Rogers said informal legal advice suggested regional councils did not have the authority to require people to replace a home heating device.
Trought confirmed the council's position that the use of burner types could be banned. Older style burners cannot discharge contaminants - smoke - 15 years from their installation date, or January 1, 2017, whichever is later.
Trought said people could be fined for having a smoky chimney regardless of the age of their burner, though the council said "many times that our preference is to educate rather than penalise".
The smoke spotter programme was part of that effort. Staff identified smoky chimneys and left dry kindling or firelighters, and an explanatory flyer, with householders in an eight-week programme that would finish on July 21.
The spotters delivered 308 bundles of kindling or firelighters to homes in Timaru before this week. Another 26 were delivered in Waimate and 21 in Geraldine.
No warning notices were issued; no fines or penalties were imposed, she said.
Rogers acknowledged the council's work but said he was disappointed it had restated its position on a deadline and requirement to which so many were opposed.
The group was considering how it might engage with the Canterbury Mayoral Forum in the hunt for solutions.
All ideas for a "pragmatic approach"- including asking for a judicial review of the plan's consultation process, were "not taken off the table".
Timaru Mayor Damon Odey, who is also the deputy chairman of the Canterbury Mayoral forum, on Monday doubted the forum could provide a short circuit solution.
The forum advocated for its councils and its regions. It was difficult to see how a group whose members developed and consulted on their own plans, could intervene to query the properly constituted - and consulted-upon -plans of a member.
Odey said he hoped to understand more about the group's plans, soon. Rogers said the group would consider its information and options later this week.
Timaru experienced its 11 day of high air pollution this year on Sunday. The national environmental standards says it should have no more than three a year.