Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Fireplace bans and hangi permits part of drive for clean air

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Some small Waikato towns are considering banning old fireplaces and insisting on permits for hangis.

The South Waikato District Council is proposing restrictions to improve the district's air quality and comply with national air quality standards by 2016 after education and incentive schemes failed to make any difference.

The move includes banning the use of solid fuel burners such as wood burners and potbelly stoves more than 15 years old in Tokoroa by November next year, and in Putaruru by November 1, 2015.

Some people could face having to spend up to $6000 comply.

The proposed clean air bylaw also extends to hangi or umu in Tokoroa, and users would need to apply for a permit from the council at least five working days before they plan to use it between April 1 and September 30.

Based on the council's estimates, 800 houses in Tokoroa would need to spend between $3000 and $6000 to make their heating appliances comply, which is a total cost of $4.8 million to its ratepayers.

Tokoroa lawyer Marin Glucina said the proposal was a nightmare and urged residents to make submissions on the proposal. He estimates it would cost up to $20 million. The bylaw would also give enforcement officers the right to enter a property to detect non-compliance and remove or alter the structure at the owner's cost. Residents who failed to comply could face a fine of up to $20,000.

"This is a poor town, how can the council just line up all the ratepayers and say you're going to dish out $10 million for what good purpose?"

Tokoroa resident Mark Nicholson could not understand how the council could make people replace perfectly good fireplaces like his 1990 Kent spectra wood-burner. "It's just a real waste of money."

Neighbours he had spoken to were also upset at the proposal and the powers council staff could be given to enforce it.

South Waikato District Council chief executive David Hall said there was more focus on Tokoroa because it constantly exceeded the level of particles from wood-burners released within a 24-hour period.

Last year, Tokoroa breached the levels 15 times and under the legislation this could not be exceeded more than three times by 2016 and once in 2020.

Mr Hall said he hoped fines wouldn't be needed and that the council would show some lenience at the beginning. It also had schemes in place for lower income households.

The proposal

Feb 1, 2013 Open fire and multi-fuel fire installation in Putaruru and Tokoroa prohibited

Apr 1, 2013 Outdoor fires ban in winter in Tokoroa. Permits required for hangi or umu

Nov 1, 2013 Open and multi-fuel fires banned in Putaruru-Tokoroa, decommissioned Dec 1, 2013

Nov 1, 2013 Old solid fuel fires banned in Tokoroa, decommissioned by Dec 1, 2013

Nov 1, 2015 Old solid fuel fires banned in Tokoroa and decommissioned by Dec 1, 2015

- NZ Herald

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