Council decided last week to not introduce a Clean Air Bylaw at this time. The Bylaw was being considered as part of a package of ways to achieve better air quality, particularly in Tokoroa.
Council remains committed to working towards cleaner air for our communities, however consultation feedback indicates strongly that our community is just not ready for a bylaw that would force homeowners to replace old woodburners with more efficient types of heating," said Mayor Neil Sinclair.
"What was encouraging is that the majority of submitters agreed that we have a problem; that PM10 is harmful and that it comes almost entirely from woodburners; which is great news," continued Mayor Sinclair.
Feedback from the community during the hearings can be broadly summarised into three key concerns:
- Cost: people felt that it is too expensive to make the changes, replacing old woodburners with new forms of heating can cost several thousand dollars depending on the type and number of heating appliances required.
- Timing: submitters also wondered if it was possible to push the introduction of the bylaw out further, to give people more time to save towards making the necessary changes.
- Wood burning habits: people also felt that it wasn't just about the age of the woodburner, but about the way we burn as well. Burning wet wood was a key concern. Council shares this concern.
Council listened intently to submitters, asking questions, clarifying concerns and discussing possible solutions. Following two days of hearings, Council deliberated on the issue on Thursday. Key decisions made were:
- Council would not be adopting a Clean Air Bylaw at this time; it would instead let the Bylaw lie on the table for a new Council to consider in two years time.
- Council would increase its education campaign around burning dry wood, buying wood in spring and summer (so it has time to dry properly), storing appropriately and continue to promote the incentive schemes on offer.
- Council would investigate ways to work with all wood merchants to minimise the impact of having wet wood available in our community.
"The challenge to our community is to ensure that in two years' time, sufficient progress has been made so that a Bylaw is not necessary," continued Mayor Sinclair.
There are incentive schemes available to help the community make these changes. These are Warm Homes Clean Air and Heat Swap. Contact Council for more information.
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National Air Quality Standards have limited the number of exceedances permitted in urban airsheds
What do you mean by 'exceedances'?
Our air quality issues come from PM10. The 'PM' stands for 'Particulate Matter' and the '10' refers to the size of the particle. There is no doubt that PM10 in Tokoroa spikes over the winter months; and there is conclusive evidence that this is due to smoke from woodburners. PM10 is measured in microns per 100 grams of air. The Standards have set an average exceedance at anything over 50 microns during a 24 hour period.
Last winter there were 16 exceedances in Tokoroa. Under the Standards we have to reduce this to just three exceedances by 2016, and to one exceedance by 2020.
We are currently not on track to achieving this. Sometimes particularly on a cold calm winter morning, the level of PM10 can reach more than double the limit.
Everyone needs to make an effort to reduce PM10 this winter.
How can we reduce our PM10?
- By installing a new energy efficient compliant woodburner and using dry wood.
- By removing woodburners and replacing with heatpumps (if increasing electricity costs is an option).
- By correctly maintaining existing woodburners, like cleaning the flues regularly.
- By burning good quality, dry wood this winter. Burning wet wood that was only chopped down a few months ago creates high levels of PM10 and is very bad for our health.