Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham said he's "ashamed" to be "part of the process" permitting burnoffs following a heavy haze of smoke that lingered in Hastings CBD on Tuesday.
The haze over the CBD and eastern parts of Hastings was seen and detected by many for close to an hour.
A Hastings Fire Station spokesperson said they received one call about the smell of smoke and after not finding any fires assumed it must be from the controlled burn-offs.
While the cause of the smoke is not known, a Fire and Emergency NZ spokesperson said there were two permitted burnoffs in Hastings today - one in Havelock North and one in Longlands.
A regional council spokesperson said it did not receive any complaints, yet Graham said if the smoke came from permitted burnoffs he was "really sad" and "ashamed to be part of the system which enables it."
"It is my biggest failure as chairman of the regional council that I have been unable to stop it," Graham said.
"It clearly should be banned, but it's not banned. It's a legal activity and it's incredible that it's still [allowed]."
He saw the smoke when walking in the Havelock hills this morning and said it was "horrendous".
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Graham said the smoke was poisonous and people needed to stay indoors and shut their windows.
Hastings retailer Tanya Koens from Flowers By Tanya said they could smell smoke from inside the shop and had to shut their doors.
She said it lingered for about an hour, and there had been similar instances of smoke previously.
After about an hour it was gone and they were able to open up the doors again.
Ironically, a council spokesperson said today's air quality reading averaged5.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air at St John's College in Hastings, which is a low reading.
Pollution response and enforcement team leader, Mike Alebardi, says the regional council is committed to rigorously enforcing the rules that protect the health of the environment and community.
If anyone has information regarding unauthorised discharges to land, air or water they should contact the council's 24/7 Pollution Hotline on 0800 108 838.