Clampdown on illegal fires

By Don Farmer don.farmer@age.co.nz -
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Lighting incinerators and bonfires is banned in Masterton's urban area.
Lighting incinerators and bonfires is banned in Masterton's urban area.

Masterton is facing a winter air pollution crisis that could lead to a clampdown on woodburners and fines being imposed on people breaching the outdoor fire ban.

The sudden onset of cold nights has created inversion problems and monitoring of pollution levels has shown air quality levels have been breached on three occasions.

Masterton District Council's regulatory manager Sue Southey said in the past week alone officers have had to attend three illegal outdoor fires which belched smoke into the atmosphere adding to the problem.

Residents in the urban area are prohibited from lighting outdoor fires from May 1 to July 31 and extending that ban until the end of August is now under consideration.

Under the town's by-laws those who flout the ban are liable to a fine of $200.

Mrs Southey said people must immediately stop lighting incinerators or bonfires and further help the situation by not burning treated or wet wood in their woodburners.

"If they continue to do so then they risk spoiling it for everyone.

"There could be restrictions put on installing woodburners and the Ministry of the Environment could well increase the performance limits on them, which would lead to a lot of existing woodburners becoming non-compliant," Mrs Southey said.

"We are facing a crisis here, there are only so many times you can breach air quality limits in a year without something being done about it."

Air quality in Masterton is monitored by Greater Wellington Regional Council as a requirement under the Clean Air Act.

Mrs Southey said the council has put a lot of effort into educating people how to avoid causing pollution, particular in regards to what wood to burn.

"We do not want to come down heavy-handed on people but I am saying to them, please help the situation by obeying the rules."

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