News Flash

04-Mar-2015, 08:06 am

Rethinking fireplace ban

MARIA SLADE (March 4, 2015)





Auckland Council is backing away from banning open fireplaces and older style wood burners, saying the city has bigger pollution problems.

Last year the council sent a bylaw on the issue back to the drawing board following widespread criticism.

The council's Regulatory and Bylaws Committee is set to reconsider the ban again at its meeting on April 1.

But committee chairman Calum Penrose says it's not the route Auckland should be going down.

The ban was initially due to come in on May 1, affecting an estimated 17,000 houses with open fireplaces and a further 64,000 with pre-2005 wood burners.

From that date homeowners would have had to take out or block up the fires before they could sell their properties, and remove them altogether by 2018.

Councils are being required to meet national air quality standards in their regions by September 2016, but Councillor Penrose says he's never been happy with the direction central government was pushing them in.

"Myself and Penny Hulse, the deputy mayor, have said very clearly to (Environment Minister) Nick Smith: Auckland is not like rest of the country," he said.

The standard says councils can't exceed certain levels of PM10 - particulates in the air which cause severe health problems - more than once a year, but Auckland had only breached it once in the past five years, Penrose said.

"I'm not going to go and tell 80,000 people around Auckland that they've got to do x,y,z.

"I would be more concerned about the biggest car park in Auckland which is the southern motorway, I would be more concerned about buses and the like. So we've got a bit of work to do around that area before we start putting the fear of god up people telling them they've got to remove their fireplaces," he said.

He's asked council officials to explore other options, such as fitting devices to the flues of wood fires which filter particulates, and educating people on how to use their fires properly.

NIWA air quality scientist Dr Guy Coulson said pollution from domestic fires was still a problem in Auckland.

"The best estimate we have is that the use of open fire places and enclosed wood burners is probably responsible for something in the region of about a couple of hundred premature deaths every year," he said.

Pollution from traffic caused more deaths, and which to tackle first was a policy decision.

"Which is fine unless you happen to be one of those people that's affected by it," Coulson said.

After-market devices fitted to flues which were shown to work cost about as much as a new wood burner, and others were not proven.

The most practical way of dealing with the problem - aside from encouraging people to use alternative forms of heating - was to teach them how to use their fires correctly, he said.

"It strikes me that it's a Kiwi's unalienable right to set fire to anything they please."

Many New Zealanders burnt wet and treated timber, and didn't know techniques such as lighting a fire from the top down which produced far fewer emissions, he said.

However stepping away from banning open fires and inefficient wood burners was a "retrograde step" he said.

Eben Joubert, head of sales and marketing for Kiwi fireplace maker Escea, said devices fitted to flues were a sticking plaster solution.

The best route to go down was either clean air burning wood fires or new energy star-rated appliances.

People wanting to install clean heating sources could access the council's Retrofit Your Home scheme, which provided a loan of up to $5000 repaid over nine years via their rates bill, he said.

Escea was about to come out with a new "direct vented" gas fireplace which took air from outside the house, which meant there did not need to be a fresh air source in the room and was therefore more efficient.

It would cost around $5000 to install, he said.

Latest Posts

29-May-2017, 07:53 am

Wet wood - a no-no New indoor fire laws will ban Aucklanders from burning wet wood and certain types of coal this winte

03-Mar-2017, 10:13 am

A burning issue Central Leader, March 1, 2017   By James Pasley About 75,000 Auckland households will

11-Jun-2016, 10:30 am

Choosing a woodburner? If you are in the market for a new woodburner there are a few points that might help you in your cho

30-Mar-2016, 08:59 am

No ban in place Upgrading your home heating still voluntary in 2016    Published: OurAuckland

10-Jun-2015, 07:54 am

Get the most from your fire Check out this video on how to light and operate a fire effectively: