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High pressure system no time for burning

Fire from TMP June 2020

A rise in outdoor burning is becoming a health risk for the community and is made worse by high-pressure systems like we’ve seen this week and the one on its way, according to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

Principal Scientist Air Kathleen Kozyniak is concerned about the potential for air quality to nose-dive with the amount of fires and a series of high-pressure weather systems on its way.

“Highs bring inversion conditions where a layer of cold air sits underneath a layer of warm air that, combined with smoky fires, are terrible for our air quality. Over the last three days PM10 (Particulate Matter smaller than 10 microns) levels in Hastings have shot up sharply, and it could get worse if skies clear over the weekend,” says Dr Kozyniak.

“I can’t emphasise enough that these fine particulates are hazardous to health. The still, frosty mornings are no time to be burning outdoors as the large plumes of smoke can’t be easily dispersed. The smoke hangs in the air, compromising the health of everyone.

“Over the last decade Hastings and Napier residents have made an effort to decrease air pollution by converting to heat pumps or using dry wood in new, efficient wood burners. We’ve also seen horticulturalists mulching so their material doesn’t get burnt and can be reused. Yet we’re seeing multiple outdoor fires being lit that detracts from the good work being done, and creates an unhealthy environment.”

Regional Councillor and orchardist Jerf van Beek says air should be safe for everyone to breathe all year round.

“Cold weather makes air quality worse. Before people burn anything outdoors we want them to think about their neighbours and community – fires shouldn’t be a nuisance to people around you,” says Jerf.

Outdoor burning isn’t permitted between May and August if your property falls within the Napier or Hastings airsheds says Jerf. Airsheds are designated air quality management areas.

“We check people are sticking to the rules with our Pollution Response team. The team responds to calls through our hotline – 0800 108 838 – and if people are found flouting the rules they can be fined up to $1,000 or prosecuted for more serious offences.”

Tania Hopmans, Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust appointee to the Regional Planning Committee, is disappointed that illegal burning has increased over the last couple of weeks.

“It not only puts the community’s health at risk but can be harmful for whānau with respiratory problems,” says Tania.

Only dry vegetation, untreated timber, paper, and cardboard can be burnt during the burning season, May through to August, outside of the airsheds. It’s prohibited to burn plastic, rubber, treated wood, among others at any time. There are exemptions for orchard or vineyard redevelopment, replacing production trees and disease control, though smoke, ash or odour can’t cause a problem past their boundary.

If you want to report some outdoor burning call our pollution hotline on 0800 108 838. Outdoor burning rules can be found on our burning page.

12 June 2020

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