Grey Power will ask the government to intervene to ensure Canterbury’s clear air rules allow old wood burners to be upgraded.
The organisation maintains people are living in unheated homes in winter as prescriptive council rules stop them from using older-style wood burners.
Most councils took a practical approach to air pollution but Environment Canterbury required log burners 15-years-old or older to be replaced regardless of efficiency, it says.
This could be done as a discretionary activity under current resource management rules, as was the case in Marlborough, O’Connor said.
“In parts of Canterbury we now have people, who can’t afford a new log burner, living in unheated homes in the South Island winter, through fear of having a smoky chimney and a penalty from their regional council.”
Minister for the Environment Nick Smith on Sunday said he was open to discussing Grey Power’s concerns about the air quality regime.
He was also set to attend a community meeting on the issue, invited by National Party Rangitata candidate Andrew Falloon, at a time to be confirmed.
He intended to place a greater focus on particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns, rather than on the PM10 of the current standards.
He wanted to ensure “we get a better balance in ensuring we get better air quality”: consideration needed to be given to balancing community needs and the need for clean air.
O’Connor is also secretary of the South Canterbury Regional Air Plan Liaison Committee, which wants ECan’s older wood burner rule, part of the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, abandoned.
The committee has also outlined its position to Smith and to Local Government Minister Anne Tolley.
Last month, it said ECan should consider allowing older style burners to be modified under resource consent.
ECan South Canterbury councillor Peter Scott said he would take that idea to a meeting of ECan councillors.
ECan officials have maintained retrofitting is impractical and costly, and that the plan developed after public consultation did not allow for it.
O’Connor said tradesmen had offered to upgrade older style log burners in Canterbury to meet the new standards as early as 2011.
“It is a relatively straight forward operation which is done on a regular basis and in most cases can be done with the log burner in place.”
“There was also a suggestion that older style log burners should only be replaced when the house was sold but that was also rejected.”
Swiss-made electrostatic chimney filters had been successfully trialled and approved over most of Europe. They would cost around $2500 to buy and have fitted compared to between $5000 and $10,000 for a new log burner, he said.
He noted ECan refused to consider anything other than taking out older log burners.
“We understand the need to clean up the winter air in many towns and cities but those rules simply cannot be so idealistic and strict that people are forced to live in cold houses if they can’t afford new log burners or extra electricity.
“That is a death sentence to many people on limited incomes.”