Some households have just two more winters to replace their burners before they become illegal.

It's part of efforts to address the city's winter air quality problem but it has sparked some worries for Age Concern Rotorua.

Homeowners using chip heaters, coal ranges, cookers and Marshall heaters have until the end of this year to stop using them, while old wood burners, multi-fuel burners and coal burners will become illegal on January 31, 2020.

No-one has been able to install these types of appliances since 2010 when the Rotorua Air Quality Control Bylaw was implemented.

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On June 1, the air quality on Edmund Rd exceeded safe limits, reaching a level which would have heightened respiratory conditions in the area.

The hope is by replacing these appliances, less smoke and pollutants will enter the air.

Houses in the orange area are in the Rotorua Airshed and are affected by the new rules. Photo / Supplied
Houses in the orange area are in the Rotorua Airshed and are affected by the new rules. Photo / Supplied

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council's natural resources policy manager, Stephen Lamb, said Rotorua regularly exceeded air quality standards in winter.

"Rotorua has a high number of wood burners per population and approximately 3000 of them are pre-September 2005 models that emit significantly more smoke than newer technology."

The new regulations will affect homes in the Rotorua Urban Airshed, a geographical area spanning from Kawaha Point to Hannahs Bay and across to Springfield and Hemo Gorge.

Lamb said the regulations would be enforced by Rotorua Lakes and Bay of Plenty Regional councils and affected homeowners would be contacted before the bylaw came into effect.

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Fireplaces like this potbelly burner will soon be illegal. Photo / Supplied
Fireplaces like this potbelly burner will soon be illegal. Photo / Supplied

Age Concern Rotorua manager Rory O'Rourke said the organisation was concerned about how the changes might affect the elderly.

"The elderly will be the ones most likely to have these in their homes," he said.

O'Rourke said he didn't think the changes were widely known but wasn't opposed to them.

"It's a catch-22 because the older people, with respiratory conditions, are also the ones being affected by the poor air quality," he said.

"Many elderly have been using these all of their lives and some use them all the time. Now they've got to change and one thing elderly people don't like to do is change."

Wood burners installed prior to September 2005 will be illegal by January 2020. Photo / Supplied
Wood burners installed prior to September 2005 will be illegal by January 2020. Photo / Supplied

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has a number of schemes to help homeowners replace non-compliant appliances.

The council's low-income heating grant helps homeowners who qualify to upgrade to either a heat pump or low emission burner.

Some of the eligibility conditions are for the burner to be the property's only form of heating, the applicant to be the homeowner and living there and that the occupants have a combined annual income of $50,000 or less.

The Hot Swap Scheme helps with replacement heating and home insulation by adding the supply and installation costs onto rates, to be paid back over 10 years.

This loan can be used by landlords, trusts and owner-occupiers.

"We are really keen to work with homeowners to remove the old fires which pollute Rotorua's air and contribute to people's health during the winter months," Lamb said.

O'Rourke welcomed schemes on offer by the council.

Healthy Homes Rotorua aims to improve health, warmth and comfort. Service co-ordinator Robyn Fisher said the programme was keeping families up to date with bylaws and regulations.

"It is very important families are keeping their homes warm, dry and healthy to prevent housing-related conditions such as bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat, respiratory conditions, and rheumatic fever," Fisher said.

Lamb said people unsure about whether they were affected should request their property file from the Rotorua Lakes Council.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council councillor Lyall Thurston said smoke from fires was the main contributor to air pollution and was affecting people's health.

"The only way we are going to stop this happening is by replacing old solid fuel burners with cleaner burning, new technology. We need to change the type of fires we use," Thurston said.

"To combat this issue we need to work collectively together as a community."

Need to know
- Homeowners using chip heaters, coal ranges, cookers and Marshall heaters have until the end of this year to stop using them. They are technically illegal now but are in a phase-out period.
- Homeowners using coal burners, multi-fuel burners, and pre-Sept 2005 wood burners have until January 31, 2020, to stop using them.
- Government regulations changed on September 1, 2005. If their solid fuel burner was installed before that date it's non-compliant.
- Coal burners and multi-fuel burners installed before or after September 1, 2005, are non-compliant in the Rotorua Airshed.
- Property owners who don't know when their fireplace was installed can phone Rotorua Lakes Council and ask them to check their property file which notes when fires were installed.
- To find out more call the Bay of Plenty Regional Council on 0800 468 792. Or visit www.cleanairrotorua.co.nz.