July 27, 2017
We have an issue developing in the South Island which could have serious implications for the vulnerable elderly and very young throughout the rest of the country.
Like many coastal towns Timaru has a serious winter air quality problem with industrial coal fired boilers, heavy trucks and solid fuel home heaters creating heavy smog during the winter months. Some regional councils, which are responsible for the development of Regional Air Plans have taken a practical approach to the issue but others, including Environment Canterbury require log burners over 15 years old to be replaced regardless of efficiency. We now have people, who can’t afford a new log burner, living in unheated homes in the South Island winter, through fear of a penalty for having a smoky chimney.
Apparently a number of engineering companies offered to upgrade older style log burners to meet the new standards. It is a relatively straight forward operation which is done on a regular basis and in most cases can be done with the log burner in place. That offer was either declined ignored. There was also a suggestion that older style log burners should only be replaced when the house was sold but that was also rejected. There are also available in New Zealand Swiss made electrostatic chimney filters which have been successfully trialed and approved over most of Europe. They would cost around $2500 to buy and have fitted but, compared to between $5000 and $10,000 for a new log burner which many people simply cannot afford. Once again, the Canterbury Regional Council has refused to consider anything other than taking out older log burners.
More recently when the possibility of upgrading older log burners was again raised, Environment Canterbury refused to consider the possibility, claiming that it was too late for amendments and it would take a prolonged and costly plan change process. They also claimed the log burners would need to be taken out of the house to be rebuilt and laboratory tested. As abatement notices and penalties can be imposed for visible chimney smoke regardless of the age of the log burner the 15 year restriction and claimed laboratory testing of upgraded log burners are unnecessary.
South Island district health boards advise that air quality and home heating are intrinsically linked and both have implications for human health. That means they must be managed in balance. It is irresponsible to frighten people into living without winter heating with illogical rules to clean up the air they breathe. Cold winter homes pose a major threat to the health of the elderly and the very young. To put these people at unnecessary risk because a regional council is too stubborn and arrogant to listen to the community they are supposed to serve is simply unacceptable.
All political parties will be asked if they would allow older style log burners anywhere in the country to be upgraded and their responses will be published in the Grey Power Magazine before the general election.
Former National President
Grey Power Federation