Hawke's Bay Regional Council's annual winter outdoor burn ban is fast approaching and residents are being reminded to follow the rules.

Regional rules aimed at keeping winter air clear and healthy means that outdoor burning is not permitted within the Hastings or Napier Air sheds from May 1 to August 31.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council (HBRC) compliance manager Wayne Wright said while Hastings and Napier air quality is improving thanks to better home heating, outdoor burning can still be a health hazard and so is banned during winter.

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This burning can also produce more toxic smoke depending on what waste is in the fire.

On cold, still nights unhealthy smoke can linger around homes.

"The rules are quite clear that you can't do any outdoor burning at all in those air sheds."

Because the rules had been in effect for at least four years and there had been a lot of education and media about the rules people were generally compliant over those winter months, he said.

"We've got to the point now where people know.

"People can't have an excuse now."

Napier is not as much of an issue because of the Napier City Council bylaw banning outdoor burning all year round, he said.

People with vegetation or other waste needing to be burnt should either do it before May 1 or wait until after August 31, otherwise they could be liable for a $300 fine for backyard burning or $1000 for businesses.

Anyone who saw outdoor burning in urban areas during winter should call HBRC's Pollution Hotline 0800 108 838 immediately, as the response team are on call 24 hours, every day.

Air sheds are specific zones around the cities where air pollution can build up during winter, especially on calm cold nights.

Air pollution is a known factor in poor respiratory and cardiovascular health.

The Heatsmart programme offered by HBRC over the past 10 years has significantly improved air quality and reduced the amount of smoke coming from wood burners in Hastings and Napier urban areas in winter by helping homeowners improve insulation and home heating.

Orchardists are permitted to burn during winter if they are clearing diseased trees or redeveloping their orchard.

However the industry has been given clear instructions to avoid certain weather conditions – to avoid still, windless days, when an inversion layer can keep their smoke close to the ground, homes and streets.

Orchardists should plan to burn on days when there is likely to be a light breeze that will carry smoke away from homes.

Information about good burning practices is available on hbrc.govt.nz.