Smoke warnings spark winter worry

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by Alexia Johnston

A South Canterbury woman issued warnings for having a smoky chimney is now worried about what the rest of winter will bring.

Robyn Arras, of Geraldine, has received two warnings from Environment Canterbury (ECan) in recent weeks.

“People are now too afraid to light [their fires].” – Robyn Arras

She said she was surprised to get the notices, particularly as her Woodsman Tarras log burner was installed only last winter and was clean-air approved.

She received her most recent warning on July 10, leaving her worried about using her burner, she said.

“There’s nothing really I can do. People are now too afraid to light [their fires],” she said.

“[But] it should be your human right to keep warm.”

She was not the only person to receive a warning on July 10, as a further seven Geraldine chimneys had been found to be smoking that night.

Although she was aware her chimney sometimes smoked for about 15 minutes after she lit her burner, it was no worse than others in her neighbourhood, she said.

She used a range of dry wood, including pine, blue gum and macrocarpa.

She was not pleased when ECan phoned her after her first “clean-air night” since her last warning to thank her, she said.

Her daughter answered the phone.

“He’s quite lucky he didn’t get me, actually, because I don’t know quite how I would have reacted.”

She had done nothing different on her clean-air night so was confused as to how ECan had come to its findings.

“I hadn’t done anything different at all.

“It’s the same wood.”

ECan’s warning came via a pamphlet in her mail box, which noted she would be given some free kindling, but that never turned up, she said.

ECan director of air quality Katherine Trought said it was likely some had been taken by people it was not intended for.

“It appears that some bundles of kindling have disappeared from properties after we left them there, perhaps because of the high demand for good-quality kindling.”

ECan home heating officers have been monitoring chimneys across the district since June this year, a process which came to an end last week.

“This winter there have been no abatement notices or fines issued,” Ms Trought said.

The aim was to educate people rather than penalise, she said.

Over that period there were 26 smoking chimneys identified in Waimate. Those residents received their first flier.

In Geraldine 21 chimneys were found to be smoking on June 26. The same chimneys were monitored again on July 10, and 16 found to still be smoking. Of those original Geraldine smoky chimneys, three were burning clean and two were not in use.