Homeowners will have to block fireplaces and replace outdated burners.

Domestic open fires will be banned from 2016 and old wood burners from 2018 under a plan Auckland Council is drawing up.

The bans will affect an estimated 17,000 households with open fireplaces and 64,000 pre-2005 wood burners that will have to be replaced with modern, less-polluting models.

Details of a draft air-quality bylaw first revealed by the Herald 10 days ago will be discussed by Auckland councillors today, including a total ban on using coal for home heating.

The council is proposing that homeowners will have to remove or replace pre-2005 wood burners and permanently block open fireplaces as a condition of selling a home.


The measures, to meet a Ministry for the Environment deadline of 2016 for regional councils to meet new air-quality standards, are expected to receive a mixed response from councillors.

Bylaws committee chairman Calum Penrose has stressed the council plans to take a pragmatic approach with the bans to give people time to install alternative heating options.

The committee is being asked to approve a big publicity campaign to let people know about assistance with home insulation and/or clean heating solutions if they have to stop using open fires or old wood burners.

Low-income households could qualify for a proposed assistance package, including postponing rates to access the council's Retrofit Your Home programme of insultation and heating measures.

The president of Grey Power's central Auckland branch, Anne-Marie Coury, said the proposed ban could hit the elderly, particularly the 51 per cent of people who survived solely on national superannuation income.

In March, councillor Cameron Brewer, who will sit on the hearings panel for the bylaw, said the council needed to look harder at dirty diesel buses that choked city streets.

Dr Kelvin Walls, a director of Building Code Consultations, said the next cheapest form of home heating after open fires and old wood burners was probably gas heating using bottles or flueless heaters, but the toxic emissions and moisture they produced could pose health dangers.

The council is expected to begin consultations on the bylaw next month.


The bylaw

What is being banned?

Auckland Council is introducing an air-quality bylaw to ban domestic open fires from October 2016 and pre-2005 wood burners from October 2018.

The Ministry for the Environment requires all regional councils to meet new air-quality standards by 2016.

Can I still have an open fire and old wood burner after 2016 and 2018?
Under the bylaw these forms of heating will be banned and you must stop using them or replace them.

What will I do if I have an open fireplace?
The council is proposing that it must be permanently blocked as a condition of selling the home. Similarly, old wood burners will have to be replaced or removed before sale.

What if you do keep using these forms of heating?
The council has no plans to penalise people. It plans a big publicity campaign to explain the rules and provide advice about alternatives.

What are the alternatives?
Modern, less-polluting wood burners, heat pumps, gas and electric heaters.