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Keeping our air clean

by GW Administrator 11 Oct 2011, 12:00 PM

How should we maintain and enhance the region's air quality?

Please view the air quality issues and goals poster.

We want to know:

  • Do you agree with how we’ve described the natural resource issues?
  • Will our response (the goals) address the issues?
  • What rules and support (i.e. information, education, funding) are needed in the regional plan to ensure the goals can be met.

Additional questions:

  • How should we deal with wood fires in the home?
    - Ban open fires?
    - Restrict the use of older wood burnder in towns and areas with air problems?
  • Should we do more to lobby the government to reduce motor vehicle pollution?
  • Are our current controls on industry adequate? Could we do more? 

    Relates to Relates to document: Keeping air clean - poster
    Bike for Life 03 Nov 2011, 10:58 AM
    Splotch 05 Nov 2011, 08:02 AM
    Is the GWRC on the right track when it comes to air quality? Absolutely not.
    I have had to move house twice in the Greater Wellington region to get away from problem fires. The GWRC was absolutely deaf to my cries for help.

    There are 2 areas where it needs to lift its game. 1. Domestic woodfires and 2. Rural burning off.

    1. Domestic woodfires
    The problem of winter fires is mostly ignored. It is under monitored, and under reported. I was glad that monitoring in Kapiti finally occurred. It was however only 1 site. That is not enough, and not done often enough. Raumati South was found to be polluted, and it seemed to come as a surprise to the GWRC officer. It was no surprise to me. I'd already moved out of Raumati South. I don't believe that only burning clean wood or only using so called "clean burning" wood burners is going to do the trick. These measures should be taken:

    The immediate banning of open fires in homes. (Like Nelson, Canterbury and Hawkes Bay have done).
    The immediate banning of backyard burners (including chimineas).
    The immediate banning of outdoor wood burners, since they can be problems for immediate neighbours and extend the burning season beyond the winter.
    Acknowledgment that "clean burning" woodburners cannot be used in the real world like the manufacturer's claimed laboratory test emissions.
    Getting the local councils to not approve new installations of any woodburner. We need to get rid of the problem, and each woodburner makes the situation worse not better. Changing out old fires for new fires does not improve the situtation despite the manufacturer's claims since "clean burning" woodburners cannot be used in the real world like the manufacturer's claimed laboratory test emissions.
    A phased in banning of all woodburners. And this should be within 18 months. A town in New York State has also gone to the extent of requiring them to be removed from houses. I would support that too so policy couldn't be reversed.

    The current air quality standards are too lenient on polluters. 50 micrograms of PM10s per cubic metre of air, that is averaged over a 24 hour average, allows for air quality that is seriously degraded. Efforts should be made to tighten the air quality standards to levels that are actually meaningful in which if the recorded air quality is under the limit than it is actually possible to be outside doing physical activity. I would suggest never more than 5 micrograms of PM10s with no peaks hidden by averaging over 24 hours, which would only allow for environmental sources and hence does need a ban on woodburners to achieve. Please note that efforts to improve air quality standards in Australia and New Zealand have been thwarted by the Australian Home heating Association and the National Party of New Zealand.

    Everything less than that plan will mean we will have ongoing problems of suburban woodsmoke. I have disrespect for people who say they want reduced air pollution but insist it shouldn't involve banning wood burners. Woodburners definitely need a comprehensive ban. There is a direct cause and effect that cannot be ignored by simple wishful thinking. For everynight where there is a wind blowing where the detrimental effects are minimised, there are still nights where the siutation is intolerable.

    Particulate pollution, largely caused by wood smoke, kills at least 1100 people a year in New Zealand. We need policies to address this, not actions that ignore the cause.

    2. Rural burnoffs
    Rural burnoffs are a huge problem. I had to move away from a house in Te Horo because the GWRC and the KCDC completely ignored me. My neighbour burnt regularly, he burnt plastic, he burnt green material, he brought stuff in on trailers to burn, it was too close to my fence (40 metres is not far enough away it should 1500m), it filled my house with smoke, he burnt outside the hours of his permit, he didn't attend his fire, he threatened me with guns, he bullied me out of my home. The police were also less than helpful saying it was only the equivalent of a starter's pistol being fired within 6 metres of my home. It was a direct threat to my life and I got the message if the police did not. So it was absolutely impossible to get the GWRC, the KCDC or the police to actually do anything. The KCDC was actually hostile to me and I accuse them of being ideologically driven to shut me up. They were worse than just 100% incompetent. The situation needs to be improved by:
    1. The GWRC should not pretend that people don't burn plastic in their fires. They most certainly do.
    2. If someone complains the default position should be that the fire is a problem and it should be stopped. Do not ignore people. People do not complain unless there is a problem.
    3. Burning off greatly reduces the quality of life and prevents the enjoyment of neighbouring properties. I couldn't be outside with the fires going, and the surrounding fires added up to over 50% of my weekend days. I had to live my life around their burning off. It should be acknowledged that this was hugely unfair when it happened to me, and when it happens to other people.
    4. All burnoff fires should be 100% prohibited. It is only laziness or cheapness where they are trying to burn rubbish or greenwaste without taking it to landfill or chipping or mulching it. They are using the atmosphere as a dump.
    5. Rural burnoffs degrade the environment for people walking and cycling as well as residents. And yes thousands of people do both in rural areas on a weekend.

    Greater Wellington Regional Council should also ensure:
    It does not say it is only a problem in Masterton and Wainuiomata. The problem is very, widespread. Tawa, Otaki, Newlands, Upper Hutt, Raumati and many other communities are very, very polluted. All of Greater Wellington should have optimal air quality and this means all forms of burning should be banned, everywhere. I think the GWRC is underrepresenting the extent of problem as deliberate policy.
    It does not allow any part of its organisation, such as the Otaki River flood controllers, to burn open fires.
    pbear 22 Nov 2011, 03:33 PM
    I completely agree with Splotch.
    But there is a problem with air quality even directly on the coast. Even when there is a southerly blowing and it is only the one row of houses along the coastal road, it can sometimes be hard to breath (especially in winter)!!!
    This has nothing to do with the salt from the sea (as was sometimes cited - contrary to this European studies have found the sea air as such to be very beneficial, especially for those with lung disease). And when I lived in Island Bay, you could see the winter smog up from the hills which does not even clear in a southerly.
    This is mostly due to fires of the several kinds. This is aggravated by people burning all kinds of rubbish.
    Exhaust fumes from motor vehicles are a big problem as well. People use their cars more often then necessary. But most avoidable is the practice of letting engines run while not driving (e.g. while going into the dairy etc). I often observe that bus drivers do not turn off the engines of their diesel buses while they are taking their break or while waiting 10+minutes for the next scheduled departure. (Apart from the pollution it is noisy.) What makes it even worse is the fact that neither the buses nor other cars are fitted with particle filters. At least buses would need to be fitted with those filters or be electric.
    Another aspect to think about: a friend of mine has asthma which vanished during his OE in the UK and returned virtually the minute he got off the plane in NZ.