Public submissions have played a significant part in shaping the final decisions on the Proposed Regional Air Plan for Southland.
The decisions on the plan have been publicly notified today (17 October 2015) and put in place a number of rules to help improve air quality as part of the Government’s National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES).
The proposed rules, which focus mainly on the Invercargill and Gore airsheds, were notified in September last year and attracted more than 800 submissions.
Following hearings (and the deliberations of a panel led by an an independent commissioner) significant changes have been made, taking into account the public’s concerns and the need to ensure Southlanders can keep their homes warm.
Environment Southland Chairman Ali Timms said the Council had worked hard to achieve a balance between warm homes and improving air quality. “We all want to breathe clean air,” she said, “but we understand that making the necessary changes to home heating isn’t easy and we have taken that into account, while still working towards meeting the NES.”
Under the new rules:
- The proposal to ban high sulphur coal has been removed and the timeframes for phasing out non-compliant burners and open fires have been extended.
- Gore has a longer phase-out period for their older burners, as they are closer to meeting the NES.
- There are a number of other rules within the plan including rules on what you can and can’t burn outdoors, restrictions on outdoor burning in winter, and changes to the rules regarding agricultural spraying and fire training.
Environment Southland will be taking an education-first approach to compliance with the new rules, understanding that homeowners will need time to make the necessary changes.
“Educating people about good burning practice, like using only dry wood, will continue to be a focus for the Council as this has the potential to significantly improve our air quality,” Chairman Timms said.
Environment Southland is working hard to get a low interest loan scheme launched that will assist people to change to cleaner heating options in Invercargill. Environment Southland and Invercargill City Council have agreed to each contribute $500,000 a year for the next three years towards the scheme, which will be managed by the Southland Warm Homes Trust.
“The loan scheme and the extended phase out timeframes are designed to help people move towards making the changes to the way they heat their homes,” Chairman Timms said.
NOTE: For more information about the rules, airshed maps and tips visit www.BreatheEasySouthland.co.nz.