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Published: 2008-03-28 00:00:00

With the end of summer fire bans around the region likely as autumn approaches, Environment Waikato is reminding people of environmental rules regarding outdoor burning of waste.

It follows several incidents where people have complained of tyres being burnt in the open - an illegal practice which produces smelly, black smoke.

The reminder also follows burn-offs of waste vegetation in huge fires after pine-to-pasture conversions in South Waikato.

“It is an offence to burn off material such as tyres and certain plastics in the open. Even burn-offs of material, such as wood and plant material, can breach the regional council’s permitted activity rules if the smoke creates a nuisance for your neighbours,” said resource use programme manager David Stagg.

Using tyres as an accelerant for farm fires was once a common practice in the Waikato but it is now banned under the council’s regional plan. It is also banned under a National Environmental Statement, said Mr Stagg.

“If we catch people burning tyres to dispose of them they can expect us to mount a vigorous prosecution.”

Mr Stagg also said that late last year Environment Waikato contacted a number of operators involved in pine-to-pasture conversions reminding them of rules against creating excessive levels of smoke that affect larger numbers of people. This followed a growing number of complaints about smoke from fires burning off waste vegetation after conversions in the Reporoa and Tokoroa areas.

“Excessive levels of smoke over populated areas will cause adverse effects to large groups of people, so pine-to-pasture operators need to take care during burn offs.”

Mr Stagg, who again warned of potential prosecutions if rules regarding pine-to-pasture waste burn-offs were flouted, said that nuisance emissions could be reduced by doing such things as:

  • having smaller fires
  • making sure the wood is as dry as possible
  • having fires in low winds.

Breaches of burn-off rules can result in enforcement action being taken, such as the issuing of a $1000 infringement notice. Serious or on-going breaches may result in prosecution with maximum penalties of up to $200,000 in fines and/or up to two years in prison.

The following rules from the Waikato Regional Plan specifically cover discharges to air:

  • there shall be no discharge of contaminants beyond the boundary of the subject property that has adverse effects on human health, or the health of flora and fauna
  • the discharge shall not result in odour that is objectionable to the extent that it causes an adverse effect at or beyond the boundary of the subject property
  • there shall be no discharge of particulate matter that is objectionable to the extent that it causes an adverse effect at or beyond the boundary of the subject property
  • the discharge shall not significantly impair visibility beyond the boundary of the subject property
  • the discharge shall not cause accelerated corrosion or accelerated deterioration to structures beyond the boundary of the subject property.

For more information on ways to reduce smoke from vegetation burn-offs you can call 0800 800 401.