Collaboration to quell fire concerns

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Better guidelines on burning crop residue are being developed, following a number of concerns in the Waimate area.

Environment Canterbury South Canterbury operations manager Judith Earl-Goulet said that while the activity was permitted in Waimate under the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, it did regularly cause concern among members of the public.

Reports of “out of control” fires and concerns about smoke, ash and visibility were common through the late summer.

“While the fires are generally well-controlled, and this is a permitted activity under the regional plan, there can be a substantial impact in our community, and greater awareness of the far-reaching impact of ash and smoke effects beyond the site of burning would be useful.”

A meeting to discuss the issues was recently held between representatives from Fire Emergency New Zealand (Fenz), Federated Farmers, the Timaru and Waimate district councils, the Foundation for Arable Research and Environment Canterbury.

It highlighted that while the Foundation for Arable Research provided a practical code of good management practice for its member farmers having a Fenz permit and smoke management plan were opportunities for the provision of more, far-reaching information.

This would be provided to both those who undertook crop residue burning and those affected by it, to address frequent misunderstandings about what was or was not acceptable.

Ms Earl-Goulet said that this summer, the agencies would work together to upskill and inform groups in the practice and management of crop residue burning.

“We are taking the community’s concerns seriously and will be looking at increased, proactive communication ahead of the season, and exploring monitoring options to understand localised effects and patterns of smoke and ash distributions.”

There are two designated crop residue burning buffer zones in the Canterbury Air Regional Plan. Inside these Ashburton and Timaru buffer zones, anyone wanting to carry out crop residue burning must have a resource consent.

Outside of the buffer zones, including in Waimate, crop residue burning may be carried out, provided a smoke management plan is completed.