12,000 wood burners expired, but help is here

With more than 12,000 expired wood burners in Canterbury homes, and thousands more due to expire in the coming years, we are urging homeowners to check their burner.

7 September is International Clean Air Day. Launched by the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, it is a chance to champion clean air projects and raise interest in improving air quality.

So, let’s review the state of play in Canterbury when it comes to air quality, and how Cantabrians view home heating.

More than 10,000 expired burners in Christchurch

Across the region, there are an estimated 12,400 non-compliant wood burners, with over 10,000 of those in the Christchurch airshed. Thousands more domestic burners will become non-compliant by the end of 2027.

Under the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, low-emission burners cannot be used 20 years after the building consent for the burner is issued, or 15 years after installation in the Timaru clean air zone.

There is a substantial body of evidence showing that breathing particulate matter is harmful. PM10 and finer particles such as PM2.5 can get deep in our lungs and cause health issues, particularly for vulnerable members of society like children, older people and those with preexisting respiratory illnesses.

The health consequences of poor air quality

Our 2020 Air Quality Snapshot Report (PDF File, 3.6MB) showed the main sources of PM10 particles in Christchurch in winter were:

  • Home heating (67 percent)
  • Industry (19 percent)
  • Vehicles (14 percent)

In 2016 Canterbury’s air pollution from domestic fires caused 206 premature deaths across adults, 384 cardiovascular hospitalisations across all ages, and 249 respiratory hospitalisations across all ages. Read the Health and air pollution in New Zealand 2016 report on the Ministry for the Environment website

The good news – help is here!

In August, the eligibility criteria for insulation grants was expanded, meaning they're available to around 58,000 more homeowners around the country. You may be eligible for 80-90 percent off the cost of installing insulation in your home.

Depending on where you live (social deprivation index) you may also be eligible for funding for upgrading your home heating. Head to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) website to find out if your house is eligible.

We’re on the right track, says our principal implementation advisor for air Paul Hopwood. Monitoring shows decreases in high air pollution days across the board in Canterbury over the past 10 years, with the exception of the Washdyke monitoring station.

"We’re having far fewer high-pollution days across the region, which is fantastic to see. There was a time there where Timaru and Christchurch were having almost ten times the number of high-pollution days they are now. 

"But the job is not done. We really want those numbers to reduce further, and the way we are going to achieve that is by encouraging those with expiring or expired wood burners to replace them with either a heat pump or ultra-low emission burner (ULEB) and by using dry firewood with good burning technique," he said. 

Financial assistance is available, including our subsidy, which is available to community services card holders and covers the full cost of replacing expired and expiring burners with a heat pump or ULEB. Our subsidies are available through Brightr or EnergySmart, depending on where you live.

How can you help?

The easiest way to see if you’re helping or hindering air quality in Canterbury is searching for your address in the Solid Fuel Burner Database to check when your burner is due to expire. If the information there is wrong, please contact our Advisory Services on 0800 326 636 to correct this. 

Check if you live in one of our eight clean air zones across the region. They cover Christchurch, Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Ashburton, Timaru, Geraldine, Waimate, and Washdyke.  

To reduce home heating emissions, low-emission burners are being phased out in five zones: Christchurch, Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Ashburton, and Timaru.

We all want clean air to breathe in Waitaha/Canterbury. You can help improve our region’s air quality by ensuring you keep in mind for your domestic fire: 

  • Burning dry, seasoned wood from Trusted Good Wood Merchants
  • Getting your fire going quickly and keep it burning hot
  • Don’t damp your fire down over night
  • Switch to a non-emitting home heating source such as a heat pump; or
  • Switch to a pellet fire or ULEB; and
  • Don’t burn treated timber or rubbish