Wood burning camera to hunt out rule-breakers

Bay of Plenty Regional Council will be out again this winter with its infrared camera. Photo: LDR/Laura Smith.

Rule-breaking Rotorua residents who continue to use illegal burners could face a $750 fine as the council cracks down on air-polluting fires.

Smoke from home-heating wood burners is the main source of wintertime air pollution in Rotorua.

Government-funded research last year found air pollution in 2016 generated by humans resulted in 3300 premature adult deaths in New Zealand, including 59 in Rotorua.

Fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide from vehicles and domestic fires were linked to hospitalisations and premature deaths.

Stats NZ last month released a new environmental indicator, Human Health Impacts of PM2.5 & NO2, based on the research.

An Environmental Insights and Analytics team spokesperson says it has updated its indicator because the health impacts have previously been underestimated.

They say the data and findings of the report are important for the public and for decision-makers for knowing the estimated number of people affected by exposure to the pollutants.

"By publishing them in a Stats NZ indicator, they become official statistics and it allows the information to be published on a second platform."

The regional council last year purchased an $8270 infrared camera to detect properties using non-compliant wood burners in an effort to improve Rotorua's winter air quality, which has historically been among New Zealand's worst.

The camera highlights hotspots such as in this flue. Photo: Supplied.

The camera was used at night, from the roadside, and pointed at rooftops to detect heat coming from burners which were banned from being used in 2020.

In 2010, Bay of Plenty Regional Council introduced solid fuel burner regulations and financial incentives to help the community to replace their non-compliant burners to improve air quality.

Since the ban, air quality in the area had improved, and the majority of the community replaced the illegal burners with less smoky alternatives such as heat pumps and pellet burners.

The regional council's air, industry and response compliance manager Stephen Mellor says it will continue to enforce the rules.

His team uses thermography and responds to visual smoke discharges and smoky fire complaints through its pollution hotline.

Anyone found to be using a non-compliant burner would receive an abatement notice with an immediate cease-use date. Continued use of it would prompt a $750 fine.

Thirty-two abatement notices were served to property owners last winter, with a cease-use date of November 30, 2022.

To date, 18 have either removed or replaced their non-compliant solid fuel burners and the remainder will be monitored to ensure their solid fuel burners were not being used, says Mellor.

He says more information on compliance and transition help can be found on its website.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.


LDR at it again

Posted on 10-03-2023 08:49 | By an_alias

Constant propaganda is all the spews out of these guys. Really strange, are they directly employed by the govt to push there agenda ?

3300 Premature Deaths

Posted on 11-03-2023 07:12 | By Thats Nice

"Fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide from vehicles and domestic fires were linked to hospitalisations and premature deaths". Exactly how many premature deaths were caused by domestic fires and how many deaths were caused by vehicles? I'd like to see the exact details and results of this Government funded research. The work "linked" is used and not the word "caused" which are 2 different things.

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