Smoky outdoor fires generate complaints

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Smoky day in Fernside .. Smoke from an outdoor fire pollutes a large area of Rangiora's clean air zone recently. ECan's regional air plan says no outdoor burning is permitted on properties within a clean air zone between May 1 and August 31. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

Outdoor fires have proven a nuisance in the Waimakariri District this month, with tighter winter rules applying.

During the first 19 days of this month, 17 complaints were filed with Environment Canterbury (ECan) over outdoor fires in the district.

“Outdoor burning can be a nuisance for neighbours and can add to air pollution caused by other sources such as home heating,” ECan’s Waimakariri zone delivery lead, Marco Cataloni, says.

“Because of this, we encourage alternatives such as mulching, composting, kerb-side collection services, taking garden rubbish to the local transfer station, or hiring a chipper and using or selling the chips.”

Although the Canterbury Air Regional Plan allows some outdoor burning, it is not permitted on properties within a clean air zone between May 1 and August 31.

In Rangiora, the 5125.64 hectare clean air zone includes the township and a large area of rural land extending out to Dixons Road in the north, Plaskett and Merton roads in the west, and almost up to Hicklands Road in the south, with the eastern boundary less clearly defined by roads.

Anyone planning an outdoor burn must also always check with Fire and Emergency New Zealand online at checkitsalright.nz to ensure they comply with any seasonal restrictions or permitting requirements.

However, if all the environmentally friendly options have been rejected and an outdoor burn is permitted under ECan and Fire and Emergency NZ rules, the person who lights the fire must still adhere to strict requirements on the day or face a $300 fine for a fire on private property and $1000 for a fire on commercial property.

“We would encourage anyone planning to undertake an outdoor burn of their green waste to contact us first,” Marco says.

“Our officers can provide guidance and advice.”

If an outdoor burn is to take place the wind must be blowing away from neighbouring properties, fires must not be lit on still days which can cause the smoke to hang around, or very windy days because of unpredictable wind changes, or if rain is forecast.

The vegetation must also be dry and the fire must start with a small pile and be hot with a good flame to minimise smoke.

If the burn is likely to last for more than three days, a smoke management plan is required.

Burning-related incidents can be reported, with as much detail as possible, to ECan on 0800 765 588.

Once an offence has been identified, ECan staff will investigate and, in many cases, they are still able to determine a breach of the rules days after the event.