COMMENT:

I have received some very interesting reactions to my comments on fruitgrowers burning green wood on an industrial scale.

This is a relatively new practice where by old trees are ripped out of the ground and burned, stumps and all. The whole process can be done in a very short time allowing the grower to sterilise the soil and replant in the same season.

Not all growers do this, some wait for the wood to dry before they burn, some let friends or contractors take out the firewood and others mulch the trees.

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The fires that I am concerned about are not fuelled by dry wood which is entirely another matter and currently not up for debate. These fires burn very quickly with a lot less smoke and low levels of PM10.

Burning green wood is smoky and results in high levels of PM10 which is dangerous to humans and is also forbidden in home fires - albeit a small number of homeowners sadly still do this.

It is also currently forbidden to have any outside fire within the air shed during the months of May and August. Fruit growers are exempt from this rule under certain circumstances, but this privilege is outdated and is clearly being abused.

To make matter worse the inversion layer is very active at this time of the year and much of this smoke hits this inversion layer, flattens out and hangs over large areas of the plains before it disperses.

We have all seen graphic photographs of this occurring and it makes the air shed concept a nonsense as smoke does not recognise these lines drawn in the sky.

I agree that it is cost effective for growers to do this (of course it is) but cost effectiveness is a very poor excuse to pollute our air.

It would also be cost effective for our dairy farmers to put their milking shed effluent straight in to the most convenient drain, but none of them think is a good idea any more.

And on the matter of my personal history RS Sage is of course right, I did used to burn orchard prunings and prunings around my lifestyle property, I also used to smoke in bars, restaurants and on planes and used organic phosphate spray.

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We have all grown up a bit since then and recognise our folly. It's time for these growers to grow up and accept their responsibly to the community that they live in.

Burning green wood is dangerous to the environment and to the health of their neighbours.

There is no dispute in this matter so why do they continue to do it. Because it's easy, fast and cheap, that's why they do it.

I appreciate that the fruitgrowing industry leaders do not support the burning of green wood on an industrial scale but they are failing to bring their rogue growers into line, so it appears that we will have to legislate.

And yes RS Sage, I did report both fires last week and several the week before and the weeks before that and will continue to do so.

Actually since May 1 the HBRC have issued 41 infringement notices (fines) and have two prosecutions under way for uncompliant outdoor fires but still they do it. I guess it's cheaper to pay the fine than do the job properly and safely so we will also need to attend this anomaly.

It's also a bit rich for RS Sage to ascribe my comments on industrial burning of green wood to an election year stunt as everyone knows that I have been bleating on about this consistently for five years, ever since I became a regional councillor.

Fruitgrowing is a hugely important industry in our region and I spent most of my life in the industry which I love but we cannot allow rogue growers to continue to burn green wood on an industrial scale and pollute our air with dangerous smoke.

Rex Graham is chairman of HBRC