News Flash

02-Apr-2015, 08:06 am

Keeping home fires burning

Aucklanders can still use older home open fires and wood-burners this winter while the authorities rethink air pollution rules.

An Auckland Council bylaw for disabling open fires and removing pre-2005 burners was expected to come into force next month in response to a Ministry for the Environment deadline for regional councils to meet new air-quality standards aimed at cleaning up the city's fine-particle air pollution, which was blamed on emissions from chimneys.

It is estimated the ban would have affected 17,000 households with open fireplaces and 64,000 with woodburners and placed a big financial burden on homeowners to replace burners or cap chimneys.

However, councillor Calum Penrose, chairman of the regulatory and bylaws committee, said the new national standard was inappropriate for Auckland, because it was not as cold in winter as southern cities with pollution problems and was between two coasts, which gave enough wind to clear the air.

"Fireplaces can burn one day and not be used the next."

Mr Penrose said standards should suit each region's situation.

The council urged the ministry to review the regulations which required the measurement of PM10 - larger particles /short term.

It welcomed a recommendation from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to review them and move away from the PM10 to PM2.5.

The commissioner's report noted that the biggest impact on human health was smaller particles (PM2.5) which could lodge in the lungs, and the measurement of long-term effects was needed.

Another point raised was that vehicle emissions released smaller particles.

The Environment Ministry said a review would occur next year.

In the meantime, the council will carry on with restrictions on the burning of rubbish, wet wood, tanalised timber and high-sulphur coal.

Auckland urban air became officially polluted in September 2012 because the average number of emission standard "exceedances" of PM10 standard in the five years before was more than one a year - it averaged two. In 2013, there were three.

At the time, Auckland home fires were estimated to cause the premature deaths of 110 adults a year, as well as 76 hospital admissions for heart and breathing disorders.

The bylaw postponement was welcomed by Howick-Pakuranga Grey Power president Arthur Moore, who said his Masport woodburner was built before 2005 but was efficient and inexpensive.

"We have a bit of firewood to help us keep warm this winter, otherwise we would have to go to electric heating and that would be added expense when our council rates will be going up 11.9 per cent."

- NZ Herald - April 2, 2015



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