Nuisance fire not breaking any rules

Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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Smoke is getting in Geraldine people's eyes - and they don't like it.

Environment Canterbury's pollution hotline has lit up over the last week as Geraldine residents complain about the effects of a burn-off just off the edge of town.

Geraldine ward councillor Kerry Stevens has described the smoke as distressing.

"It seems to get worse as the wind changes; people really don't like the smell or sight of it," he said.

"I've got no idea where it's from, but obviously someone has set off a large burn-off, which isn't well controlled."

Mr Stevens said several older people were concerned that their quality of life had been impaired due to the fumes.

"I drove past it [yesterday] . . . it was dying down, but still pretty bad."

Geraldine resident Don Law said the smoke had got so bad, he could barely see out the front door of his house.

"It seems to be one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else. We're told when we light log fires that we shouldn't burn wet wood - well, it's clear these people aren't doing that," he said.

"The wood would have been knocked down only in the last lot of winds [in August and September], and is scarcely dry."

ECan regional compliance manager Marty Mortiaux confirmed the pollution hotline had received 19 complaints regarding the smoke in the past week.

He said a landowner had cleared the plantation and formed windrows that had been smouldering since March 3.

"A resource management investigator attended yesterday and conducted a site inspection. He did not see smoke cross the boundary, but there was some odour. The owner intends to burn for another 10 days and has agreed he will not start any further fires," Mr Mortiaux said. "He has a permit from the rural fire officer to carry out the burn."

Mr Mortiaux said ECan's guidelines stipulated any fire should not cause "an offensive or objectionable effect beyond the boundary of the property".

"ECan has enforcement powers to stop objectionable fires. This includes serving abatement notices, or infringement fines of $300 to $700," he said.

However, Mr Mortiaux said there were several burn-offs occurring in the area. "It is coming up to that time of year. But the vast majority of burn-offs are complying with the rules."

Attempts by the Herald to contact the landowner have so far proved unsuccessful.

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- The Timaru Herald

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