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Published: 2012-08-21 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council says it’s happy to provide homeowners with detailed information if they want to clarify the meaning of an upcoming ban on the use of newly-installed domestic open fireplaces in Te Kuiti.

The upcoming ban, announced late last month, followed monitoring which showed levels of harmful fine particles known as PM10 in the town’s air exceeded national environmental standards. PM10 mainly comes from wood burnt for home heating in older, inefficient burners and open fire places. They can cause health issues when breathed in.

The monitoring results triggered a requirement, under the national environmental standards for air quality, for the regional council to place a ban on the use of any new domestic open fireplace installed after 2 July 2013. For the purposes of the ban, an open fireplace is defined as a fireplace where the combustion chamber is not totally enclosed, and which burns coal or wood.

“There is no requirement for homeowners to stop using any existing fireplaces for heating purposes at this stage,” said council environmental chemist Jonathan Caldwell.

“What the national environmental standards are seeking to achieve through this ban is the prevention of the spread of new domestic open fireplaces burning coal and wood in the town, as this could add to the current PM10 levels we are seeing.

“The ban on using newly installed open domestic fireplaces using coal and wood will kick in on 3 July 2013. Any new open fireplace installed from that date will not be able to be used for burning coal and wood in a home.”

People will still be able to use enclosed fire places, such as woodburners, installed prior to and after 2 July 2013. They could also keep using existing open fireplaces, Dr Caldwell said. However, he said the use of open fire places is a very inefficient method of home heating. Burning dry wood, using a Ministry for the Environment authorised woodburner, and not dampening down fires will help reduce smoke.

Despite the requirement to put in place the new ban, Dr Caldwell noted that there is an indication that air quality over the last few years has improved in Te Kuiti. As a result, the national environmental standards target of no more than one PM10 exceedance per year by 2016 may well be achieved without the necessity for further intervention.

People wanting further advice on the upcoming ban, PM10 issues generally and clean heating alternatives can call Dr Caldwell on 0800 800 401.