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Published: 2006-09-15 00:00:00

Eighty-three per cent of Hamilton people would support a ban on the burning of green waste in urban areas, while 11 per cent were neutral and only six per cent would oppose it, an Environment Waikato survey has revealed.

In other Waikato towns, 68 per cent said they would support a ban, while 12 per cent would oppose it.

Key reasons for supporting a ban were improvements in air quality and environmental benefits and eliminating impacts on neighbours.

The main reasons for opposing it were the absence and cost of alternatives.

The telephone survey, carried out by Versus Research Limited on Environment Waikato’s behalf, randomly sampled 404 Hamilton residents and 408 people from rural towns. It was carried out in August and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 per cent.

The survey looked at issues surrounding how people dispose of their garden and green waste, such as grass clippings, leaves and branches. It was designed to help Environment Waikato make decisions about how to control the effects of burning these wastes, which include negative impacts on human health and creating a nuisance to neighbours.

Ninety-five per cent of Hamilton residents said they did not burn green waste in their backyards, as opposed to 84 per cent of residents from rural towns.

However, 14 per cent of Hamilton respondents and 26 per cent of those in towns said burning occurred in their neighbourhood.

Green garden bins or bags were the most popular way of disposing of garden waste in Hamilton, with 42 per cent using that option. In other towns, composting or mulching was the preferred method, used by 50 per cent of respondents.

Overall, 83 per cent of those surveyed said they would stop burning garden waste if was causing problems with people’s health.

In summary, most Waikato people did not burn garden waste, and of those who did, most said they would stop if it was inconveniencing or harming human health. Most people would support a ban on burning garden waste in urban areas.

For those who would oppose a ban, their main issues appeared to be the lack of alternatives and expense involved.

Environment Waikato air manager Brent Sinclair said backyard burning was one of a number of contributors to air quality problems in the Waikato region.

“Hamilton city and a number of Waikato towns do not comply with the national environmental standard for air quality and this is a real concern for council,” he said.

“Poor air quality can have serious impacts on human health. It can contribute to asthma and bronchitis and can cause premature deaths. Children, the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses are most at risk. Every action we take to improve air quality will help to improve the health of people in our region.

“We are currently undertaking a range of investigations into the best way to tackle air quality problems and public consultation is an important part of that process. This survey assists us as we go about prioritising where we should focus our efforts.”