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Putting burners back in Christchurch homes

Published: 8/06/2012 11:39 a.m. 

Advances in home heating technology could see ultra-low wood burners installed in many Christchurch homes in the next few years.

Environment Canterbury Commissioners are looking to develop a package of adjustments to the current air plan to reduce average emissions into the air. One of the options to lower emissions is to encourage the home heating industry to develop low emission burners which could be installed in Clean Air Zone 1.

Commissioner for Air David Bedford says “New wood burner technologies for the domestic market are emerging that produce extremely low or zero emissions. We want to make changes to the Christchurch Air Plan that encourage the home heating industry to develop their domestic appliances and bring them to the market in a short time frame.

“To make the most of these technological advances, we want to change the plan as quickly as possible to give more options to homeowners who may be rebuilding after the earthquake, building new home and want to install an ultra-low burner once they become available.

Under the Christchurch Air Plan rules, which reflect World Health organisation standards, wood burners have not been allowed in new homes in Christchurch since 2002. The air plan was developed to help the city meet the government’s national air standards around pollution levels.

Mr Bedford says “The Christchurch community has worked hard to improve air quality in the city over the past 10 years. A large number of people have had their say on the future of Christchurch and want to live in an environment where they have excellent air quality. We have spent over $46 million of ratepayer and taxpayer contributions to help people convert to cleaner forms of home heating and to improve the quality of our air.

“So as a Council, we are totally committed to the air plan because having good quality winter air is a health issue.

“Smoke from wood burners contributes up to 80% of the harmful air pollutant PM10 in winter air which causes significant respiratory problems for many people and contributes to a range of health issues in vulnerable populations. We need to keep the PM10 levels as low as possible to protect the future health of our community.

“However, the earthquakes have brought about some unexpected challenges for Christchurch air quality with land use changes, the destruction of homes and the need for people to repair and rebuild their homes.

“Many Christchurch people want to be able to use wood as a heating fuel,’’ says Mr Bedford. “We think new technology wood burners allowed by an adjustment to the air plan will enable this while also improving air quality.

“We know there are manufacturers out there who want to take advantage of new technology which can produce these ultra-low or non-emitting appliances.
“The proposed air plan additions will give a clear signal to the home heating industry that we will work with them to allow people have a wood burner in their home. We see it as a win/win situation – meeting heating needs and improving air quality.’’

“We also need to lock in the air quality benefits created by people removing wood burners in the last 10 years.

“As part of the package we will align Christchurch rules around wood burner lifetimes with those in other parts of the region and make adjustments to urban limits to allow for post-earthquake development.

“We can’t go backwards. After the large investment and commitment made by the people of Christchurch, we want to benefit from the significant gains that have been made in the past 10 years.’’

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