Clean air in Christchurch

The onset of winter has brought to a head debate on wood burner use in Christchurch. People living in damaged homes must be able to stay warm even if their wood burner doesn’t meet Environment Canterbury’s Air Plan rules. It’s also important that we don’t unwind the gains of recent years and have Christchurch return to being smog city.

Clean air is vital for our health and well-being, the city’s amenity, for attracting visitors, and to avoid premature deaths and respiratory problems among older citizens and those with respiratory complaints.

Christchurch used to have the poorest air quality in New Zealand. One of ECan’s major achievements pre-quakes was cleaning up winter time air quality. The number of winter days when air pollution in the city exceeded the World Health Organisation standard was reduced from 60 in 1999 to 16 in 2010.  Last year, post-quakes, Christchurch had 35 high pollution days.

ECan’s Air Plan rules which prohibit wood burners and open fires in new homes were developed with considerable public input over many years. Loosening the rules to allow wood burners in new homes risks Christchurch returning to the days when it was too smoggy to be outside on winter nights.

New ultra low-emission wood burners are being developed. It would be better to wait until these are proven before considering any rule changes.

Residents have also invested more than $46 million in cleaning up Christchurch’s air through ECan’s previous Clean Heat scheme and its insulation and heating subsidies (before the ECan Commissioners wound it back), as well as through EECA subsidies to replace wood burners and open fires. That investment in clear air needs to be protected.

One way Christchurch homes can be warmer and drier without sacrificing the major improvements in winter time air quality is to sort out the current shambles over retrofitting insulation when earthquake damaged homes are repaired.

4 Comments Posted

  1. BAN COAL!! The west coast is putrid and sickening in winter; if you’re blindfolded you know when you enter a town because you suffocate with the acrid smell of coal exhausts. How anyone can live in west coast towns is beyond my comprehansion. Even in Seddonville where I live my neighbour has a constant coalfire and anyone in my property suffers the effects – stuffed nose, headache, nausea, lethargy, sore lungs and when it gets bad, burned mouth and facial skin from the acid. There are clauses in the Clean Air Plan to protect health but these clauses are not worth the paper they are written on, I know, I’ve tried to invoke them.

  2. We must work together to reduce air pollution..reduce ride your car and try use bicycle. I don’t know why many people don’t care about pollution, pollution can make us sick. they prefer choose ride a car and sick than use bicycle and healthy..

  3. The first and simplest trick to fixing emissions would be to legislate a maximum of 20% moisture content in any firewood sold. (Even that’s too high).
    Dry wood would probably clean up the air more than all other measures combined.

  4. I understand that one of the new ultra-low emission wood fires hasn’t passed ECANs tests because those tests require a fixed amount of fuel to be added at set times and the wood burner in question is designed to have a load of fuel added at the start and to be left alone for 6+ hours at a time, so it fails the test because the testers are opening it up.

    This is a case where the test method needs some flexibility.

    Trevor.

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