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Christchurch Air Plan back on track this winter

Published: 29/03/2012 2:17 p.m. 

People in earthquake damaged homes waiting for repair or rebuild can keep themselves warm and healthy by the most effective means available to them. 

However, people who do not fit into this category will be expected to comply with the requirements of the Christchurch Air Plan, says Environment Canterbury Director of Resource Management, Kim Drummond.

“The government has set National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES) which reflect World Heath Organisation standards that are based on the impact particulate matter in the air has on the community.  We need to reach NES targets of only three exceedances by 2016 and one exceedance by 2020 to avoid stricter controls on emissions into the air.”

There is no doubt, Christchurch air quality has been improving as people have replaced open fires or older woodburners with non-emitting appliances such as heat pumps, says Mr Drummond.  However the earthquakes have now created a problem for many people and it is important that they are able to keep themselves warm during winter.

“Much work has been done to date to significantly improve air quality in Christchurch. This was undertaken in response to strong community input that clean air is something people value and want for their city. Nearly forty six million dollars has been spent on the Clean Heat programme which was very effective so we cannot go back.

“We know home heating causes about 80% of the harmful particulate in Christchurch’s winter air, so limiting the number of emitting burners is one of the key means to reach the NES.

The Air Plan prohibits the installation of wood burners in new homes and a consequence of the earthquakes is that many people are now faced with rebuilding and in many cases relocating their homes.  “We appreciate that many people facing rebuilds would prefer to have a woodburner installed.  However modeling has shown we still need to remove at least 4000 emitting appliances to be able to meet the standards. This is the reason we are adhering to the Air Plan rule that no burners can be installed in new homes.’’

On the positive side, all new homes will be built to current building code requirements, resulting in more energy-efficient homes which reduces the potential need for heating using woodburners, Mr Drummond says.

The Air Plan also prohibits homeowners with solid fuel appliances 15 years or older, from being able to use them between 1 April and the end of September each year. These homeowners will be able to replace these with a new approved lower emission appliance.  However our message to people with earthquake affected homes is that we will not be requiring them to comply with this requirement during the upcoming winter if they are not in a position to do so.

“Our domestic enforcement officers will be continuing to respond to calls on the Pollution Hotline from people concerned about smoky chimneys in their neighbourhood,’’ says Mr Drummond.   “The officers will visit the home with the emitting chimney and discuss ways to improve the problem. Sometimes people are unaware they have a smoky chimney and may need some advice on how to use their burner well, including the type and quality of fuel used.

However people who are found to be using anon-complying burner that is 15 years or more could face a fine if they continue to use it, says Mr Drummond.

“So this winter we will be continuing our pragmatic approach for people whose homes are earthquake affected but will be enforcing  our Air Plan for the rest of the city.  We must continue to consider the long-term health of our community and look forward to a future living in a cleaner unpolluted city.’’

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