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Worth checking out .. Environment Canterbury has received more than 160 applications for fire-replacement subsidies, 140 of which have been approved. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

Time is running out for Timaru residents to apply for consents for low-emission wood burners.

People may upgrade to low-emission burners if they lodge their wood burner installation consent application with ECan before October 31.

But they will have to install ultra-low-emission wood burners after that time.

ECan air quality director Katherine Trought said while low-emission burners were cheaper to install, they would have to be upgraded again in another 15 years.

Ms Trought encouraged residents not to forget about the deadline as the weather warmed up and people no longer needed to use their fires.

Environment Canterbury had received more than 160 applications for fire-replacement subsidies, which ranged between $500 and $5000 depending on the resident’s health and financial situation, 140 of which had been approved, she said.

Ms Trought encouraged residents to inquire about qualifying for subsidies.

“You might be surprised.”

She also encouraged people to stock up on firewood over summer so they had dry, clean-burning firewood for next winter.

“People really don’t want to hear [about winter when] we’ve got to enjoy summer first.”

She said the way residents burned wood was important in the quest for cleaner air.

“It’s not really a problem with the burners but they way they’re burning.”

While this could be seen as a contradiction to ECan’s statements on the necessity to upgrade wood burners, Ms Trought said people needed to be upgrading to new wood-burning technology.

She said while staying warm was a top priority, the health outcomes of clean air were also important.

“Having a warm house is really important .. [but] we can do both.”

South Canterbury regional air plan liaison committee chairman Mark Rogers said the group had been echoing Ms Trought’s comments about the problem being how people were burning wood, rather than the burners themselves since the changes had first been proposed.

“Maybe ECan should take that into consideration.”

He said the group was due to have a meeting today involving post-election discussions about the members’ next steps.

While Environment Minister Nick Smith had suggested pre-election that if re-elected, National might be able to to alter the ECan wood burner rules, and Labour’s Jo Luxton had said her party would also scrap the changes, any changes were up in the air while the election outcome was unclear.

Ms Trought reminded Timaru residents that it was not just a one-off consent deadline, as newer wood burners would face the same situation in 15 years.

She said as long as consents were lodged, staff were understanding of the delays around the backlog of consents and installations of new fires.

“It’s about taking the first step.”