Pilot aims to address odour issue in Washdyke

We are undertaking a pilot project throughout February to gather better odour information and data in the Washdyke and northern Timaru area. The aim is to reduce odour reaching beyond business boundaries and the impact this can have on residents.

We will be providing updates on this page throughout the pilot.

Smelt it? Report it

From 1 to 28 February, residents are asked to log any noticeable odour in the area using the Smelt-it app (or by phoning 0800 765 588). At the same time, we will be:

  • working with businesses in the area to get more information on their operations and timing of certain activities
  • gathering weather data and monitoring wind patterns; and
  • employing an independent odour assessor to spend time in the area to provide an impartial, outside perspective.

Southern Zone Delivery Lead Brian Reeves said that odour is a serious concern for many residents in the Washdyke and northern Timaru area.

"This pilot – and particularly the different data streams – will enable us to bring together odour reports, the physical impact on residents and the likely location at the same time. We hope this will give us a compelling picture of the situation, in a way we’ve not been able to before."

Reeves emphasises the importance of the collaborative element of the project.

“We are excited to work with both the community and local businesses on this pilot, all of whom have a collective desire to improve the situation for everyone involved, and particularly affected residents. The businesses we have spoken to are on board and cooperating fully.”

After February, the results of the pilot will be analysed and reviewed, with the findings reported back to the community.

Pilot updates

Update 2: 1 March 2021
The pilot has now ended and we are moving into the analysis phase, looking at all the data and information received, including from:
  • Smelt-it reports,
  • businesses on their operations,
  • weather data and wind patterns, and
  • the independent odour assessor.

We want to thank members of the Washdyke/Timaru communities and the local businesses that have taken part in the pilot.

We look forward to reporting back on our findings at the end of March.

Update 1: 10 February 2021
map of Smelt-it reports

This map shows some of the clusters of Smelt-it reports over the first week of the pilot. Full results will be shared with the public at the end of the pilot.

Timaru residents are helping find the source of unpleasant odours by using the Environment Canterbury smelt-it.web.app this February.

A pilot project, targeting Washdyke and the northern Timaru area, aims to gather better odour information and data using the free website app.

For the past week, Timaruvians have been able to use Smelt-it to easily and anonymously record noticeable odours, which are then investigated by a team in the target zone using mapping technology and odour assessment methods. In addition, businesses in the area are proactively taking part in the pilot, working closely with Environment Canterbury to help identify potential odours as they are reported.

Feedback on Smelt-it and other analysis will be analysed and shared with the public and local businesses once the pilot ends. However, our team working on the ground in the Washdyke and northern Timaru area is already developing a better understanding of the range and nature of odours in the area.

Southern zone delivery lead Brian Reeves said having more ‘real-time’ reports coming through from the public is helping build the big picture of which businesses are emitting different odours at different times.

"Overall, the aim is to reduce odour reaching beyond business boundaries to reduce the impact these odours have on our community. With Smelt-it, we’re able to collect more data and respond in a timely manner, where possible. The more people that use Smelt-it when they smell an odour in northern Timaru, the more successfully we’ll be able to accurately pinpoint and assess a source."

The team have also had good feedback about how Smelt-it focuses on the impact on a person’s daily life rather than a numbered scale.

“We’re looking for meaningful information – like is the smell bad enough to stop you from enjoying being in your backyard? It’s a much more practical approach to monitoring odour impact,” said Reeves.

Two public drop-in sessions have also been held, where residents asked questions about the pilot and gave feedback on Smelt-it and their experiences with odour issues in Timaru.

“We had a good turn-out and the level of engagement was high. We’re confident those that came along will be telling all their friends and family to use Smelt-it if they experience a bad odour in the area.”

Got questions?

Learn more about the pilot and using Smelt-it with our frequently asked questions below.

Pilot overview
What is the pilot study about? 
We know odour is a serious concern for people living in Washdyke and northern Timaru. Traditional ways of responding to odour reports from the community haven't been effective.
This pilot study will use odour reports from the community via a mobile app and compare them with wind and weather data and business operational information. This should build a comprehensive picture of what was occurring on particular days and provide the information needed to inform changes that should improve the situation. The information generated is far more detailed and of far greater quality than has previously been available. It brings together three streams of data to better understand odour, source and impact, which we had not been able to do before.
This information will inform decisions to better manage odour and reduce instances of odour reaching beyond business boundaries, and improve the situation for residents.
Is this work going to make these smells go away? 
Having more data from the community and businesses will increase the chances of finding the source(s) of odour and inform decisions of the management of it.
We cannot guarantee the odours will be eliminated entirely, but we should reduce instances of odour reaching beyond odour-emitting business boundaries.
We will continue to monitor the situation and will review progress. Continued reports from the community via the Smelt-it app, will be a vital part of monitoring progress.
What will Environment Canterbury do differently during the pilot?
The pilot study should gather more comprehensive community feedback and other data than previously gathered. Using an app to support community reporting and new technology to track real time data brings together three independent data sources – community reports, operational information and environmental data.
We will be prioritising staff resource to Washdyke odour reports to support the pilot study and corroborate what the community is reporting – in normal circumstances, officers might be prioritised elsewhere when a report is made.
An independent odour specialist will also undertake assessments during the pilot period to provide an impartial, outside perspective.
Who is involved?
We encourage anyone working in, living in, or visiting Washdyke to get involved and report any odour they noticed via the Smelt-it app.
I own/manage a business in the area; how does this impact me?
Part of this pilot is looking at a new way of working with businesses in the area that have previously been, or will be, identified as potential odour emitting sites.
We want to encourage better information sharing to identify possible causes of odours and reduce them.
I don’t live in or near Washdyke/northern Timaru, but I have noticed odour problems. What should I do? 
Please call 0800 765 588 (24 hours) to report any environmental incident.
What about south Timaru and the industrial Redruth area?
The February 2021 pilot is focusing on Washdyke and northern Timaru as these are the areas where historically we have received the largest number of odour notifications. Once this pilot is complete, it is likely we will be able to use the results to tackle odour issues in other areas of South Canterbury and throughout the region.
What happens at the end of the pilot?
We will analyse the feedback from Smelt -it and other data and information gathered and report back to the community.
Using Smelt-it
How do I access Smelt-it?
Head to Smelt-it.web.app and complete the form.
I’m having trouble entering the address into Smelt-it, what do I do?
We recommend you enter the closest address to where you are standing when you experience the odour (Smelt-it needs an address entered so that the data we are getting is as informative as possible).
I only notice the smell at the weekend, should I still log it in Smelt-it?
I work in Washdyke but don’t live there, can I use Smelt-it?
Yes, if you work in the Washdyke area and notice an odour during the day, please report it using Smelt-it.
Why can’t I input what I think the source of the odour is into Smelt-it?

We need to know where you were when you notice the odour and at what time.

We will then use wind direction and dispersion models to narrow down potential sources using a scientific approach.

It’s important that we test the community’s experience against scientific data to narrow down the potential sources.
Historical reports from the community to us show that people have different views and opinions on where the odour might be coming from. It is important during the trial we keep an open mind.
Will I receive a call or some sort of confirmation after I log a Smelt-it?
If you log a Smelt-it notification, you will only receive a phone call from us if we require further information (and then only if you’ve provided your details).
I am experiencing issues using Smelt-it, what do I do?

Please see the FAQs on the Smelt-it tool for information.

Alternatively, you can call 0800 324 636 and talk to one of the team for help.

I don’t have a mobile, how can I be involved?

You can also use Smelt-it on a tablet or desktop computer.

If you need assistance, call us on 0800 324 636 and we can help.

You can also continue to report odours via our incident response line on 0800 765 588.

What is Environment Canterbury’s role regarding odour?
We are responsible for regulating discharges to air under the Resource Management Act and the Canterbury Air Regional Plan.
We are also responsible for responding to reports of odour from the community.
What are acute and chronic odours?
An acute odour is one that is very smelly for a short period of time – high in intensity, but low in frequency. It is offensive and objectionable, but short-lived and isolated.
These types of odours are typically easier to evidentially prove.
A chronic odour may not be as smelly but may happen regularly i.e. daily or weekly – low in intensity, but high in frequency.
If this type of odour is experienced on an isolated basis, it would not be considered offensive and objectionable.
However, over a long period of time, the odour can become offensive and objectionable.
A chronic odour is evidentially harder to prove as a history of non-compliance would be required.
Traditionally, our response has been focused on acute odours, but we’ve realised we need to address the ongoing chronic odours which really impact on the residents.
Why do you refer to "offensive and objectionable" odours?
Ministry for the Environment guidelines state that offensive is defined as "giving or meant to give offence; disgusting, foul-smelling, nauseous, repulsive".
Objectionable is defined as "open to objection, unpleasant, offensive".
The Canterbury Air Regional Plan states the odour shall not cause offensive and objectionable effect beyond the property boundary.
Are there any health impacts associated with these odours?
Canterbury District Health Board's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink said that the risk of long-term health effects associated with the odour is considered to be low.
However, repeated or prolonged exposure to odour can be stressful, and the person experiencing this may become particularly sensitive to the presence of the odour.
Acute health effects may vary between individuals due to the fact that perceptions of, and sensitivity to, odour can vary widely.
If the symptoms persist or you are experiencing effects, such as eye, nose or throat irritation and/or have a pre-existing medical condition then you should speak to your GP.
How is the pilot study different to previous efforts to determine the cause of odour?
Previously, we had used Ministry for the Environment guidance on key considerations when undertaking odour assessments.
As well, our response has been focused on acute odours, but we realised we need to address the ongoing chronic odours which really impact on residents.
While it might appear straightforward, determining the source of an odour to the degree necessary to support action required to address it is complex – there can be a number of variables involved – including wind, weather, distance, temperature and topography – and taking action requires a proper standard of evidence, which in turn helps ensure an appropriate action can be taken.
Previously, when reports were made, the situation could easily change by the time an officer arrived to investigate a report. The pilot study essentially crowd-sourced information from the community and used a range of other information sources to build a far more comprehensive picture of what was going on. This is a very new approach to addressing these sorts of issues.