Editorial: This is going to hurt

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2013

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OPINION: A tougher stance on log fires in Timaru is inevitable. And just as inevitable is that the exact format of it, when decided, will provoke criticism.

Smog in winter is a problem created by many but owned by few. And so far Environment Canterbury and the Timaru District Council have taken a softly-softly approach to it.

An approach that is not going to produce the outcome required, which is no more than three high-pollution nights a winter by 2016 and no more than one a winter by 2020.

Natural attrition of old woodburners, a dob-in-your-neighbour's-smoking-chimney strategy with little follow-up action, and an education campaign on burning dry wood were never going to cut it, mainly because of one thing - money.

If people can keep a log fire for a few more years, even if it's inefficient, they will, and gentle prods about dirty air won't change it.

Certainly the authorities tried to encourage homeowners to change to heat pumps with grants, but it still came with a cost and there was only so much money available.

So now there's a realisation that 2016 is just around the corner and if something more meaningful isn't done soon new consents involving emissions to the air simply won't be granted.

And sure, there may be a hope the Government will be a little lenient, but we have to show we're doing something.

To be fair we should be anyway. Dirty air kills and in winter we have far too much of it.

But it's going to come with some pain, and that may start to hit next year as Ecan proposes that non-conforming log burners be pulled out when they reach 15 years old or when houses containing them are sold.

And Timaru has almost 2500 homes with such burners, burners that in most cases will be considered perfectly fine.

There will be some disgruntled people.

Another thing: It is good news that Aoraki Polytechnic will continue as a separate entity rather than be amalgamated with another institution.

There was a fear the latter would happen in a changing tertiary education landscape but it has been resisted, with closer collaborations chosen instead. That is sensible.

It allows the polytech to retain its own flavour, which will be unique to this region, and we keep that sense of ownership.

These are still difficult times for the polytech but it is working hard to change. At least it can do so now on its own terms.

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- The Timaru Herald

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