More help for Timaru wood burner users

A small number of Timaru households facing difficult circumstances will get a temporary waiver, enabling them to use their expired wood burner next winter. However, they will then have to upgrade to an ultra-low emission burner if they wish to continue burning wood.

“Allowing temporary waivers in exceptional circumstances is not a new approach for Environment Canterbury to take.  After earthquakes and floods in other parts of Canterbury, for example, we offered some homeowners temporary waivers while repairs or rebuilds were underway,” Environment Canterbury air quality director Katherine Trought said.

“In Timaru, we have been working hard to make sure everyone can stay warm next winter.  We are already in contact with a handful of people who may require a temporary waiver for this reason, but we want to let others know it is a possibility too,” Trought said.

Under the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, older-style wood burners aged 15 years and up must be replaced on properties measuring under 2 hectares in the Timaru Clean Air Zone.  Affected households have until 31 October 2017 to take steps towards getting a low emission wood burner.  After that, a low emission wood burner is no longer an option.

Trought said a temporary waiver would apply only after a face-to-face meeting with one of Environment Canterbury’s home heating officers, and is subject to the household agreeing to burn smoke free in the meantime.

How to qualify for a temporary waiver

To qualify for a temporary waiver, a household would need to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Financial difficulty (where a subsidy is not sufficient or appropriate)
  • Extenuating circumstances (e.g. those with health issues or some elderly people)
  • Intent to purchase an ultra-low emission wood burner model that is not yet available (e.g. an insert model)

Temporary waivers will be reviewed after winter 2018 and terminated if the household does not comply with the no visible smoke rule.

Contact us for more information

Any homeowner or tenant struggling with replacing their wood burner should contact Environment Canterbury Customer Services on 0800 329 276 for an initial assessment to see if a temporary waiver may be suitable in their case.

Frequently asked questions
Why are these temporary waivers necessary? 

Many people in Timaru have already taken steps to comply with the Air Plan, but we know that replacing a wood burner is not necessarily affordable or easy for everyone.  That is why we have continued to listen to people in our communities and adjust the support we offer accordingly.

We already extended our subsidy criteria earlier this year to enable more low-income people to qualify for financial assistance of up to $5000.  We have also indicated that we will accommodate any delays beyond the control of the individual such as those people waiting on building consent approval, waiting on a retailer or installer, or waiting on a home heating assessment from EnergySmart.

Now we have identified that a small group of people may need additional time to comply at the discretion of our home heating officers after a face-to-face meeting. After their temporary waiver agreement with Environment Canterbury ends, an ultra-low emission wood burner or other non-emitting forms of heating needs to be used (e.g. heat pump).

How do I know if I am eligible for a temporary waiver?

If you – or someone you care about – have extenuating circumstances that mean you do not feel able to upgrade your wood burner at this time, you may be eligible for either a home heating subsidy or a temporary waiver agreement. The first step would be to contact Environment Canterbury Customer Services on 0800 329 276. Our reps will talk to you more about your situation and advise if you will need to speak directly to a home heating officer who would set up a face-to-face meeting.

I’m renting. How can you help me?

If you think you have an older-style wood burner aged 15 years or more, talk with your landlord or, if you prefer, call us and we can talk to your landlord. Home heating subsidies of up to $5000 are also available for rental properties if the tenants meet the low-income criteria.

What proof do I need to provide about my situation?

It depends on your individual case, but some examples might include a medical certificate or proof of low income.

What will Customer Services ask me?

They will ask you some basic questions to ascertain your suitability for a temporary waiver (or a home heating subsidy).  This will include your living situation, the type of heating you use and your reasons for not being able to upgrade your wood burner in time for next winter.

Helping you to continue to have a compliant wood burner is our focus. Whenever we can, we will refer customers to EnergySmart for a low income financial subsidy, or encourage customers to lodge a building consent for a compliant burner.

Can I get a temporary waiver to install a low emission wood burner?

No. After the end of October 2017, lodging a building consent for a low emission wood burner is no longer an option if your wood burner is expired. We have been working hard this winter to make people aware of this deadline and explain the process.

For those who still want a low emission wood burner, we strongly urge them to act before 31 October 2017. A building consent requires that you start work within 12 months and complete work within 24 months, and it can usually be extended or amended. We have already said installation can take place after 31 October 2017 as long as a building consent has been lodged.

How long do I have to get a temporary waiver? Do I have to do it now?

Contact us between now and winter 2018.

How long will it take to get an agreement signed?

It depends on demand. A home heating officer will typically be in touch with you within 3 business days of your first contact with Environment Canterbury (or Senior Citizens Timaru if that is your preferred starting point).

Can I use my non-compliant wood burner while I’m waiting for an agreement to be signed? 

Hopefully you won’t need to light up your wood burner too often in the warmer months of the year, but if you do, yes.

What will the temporary waiver agreement say?

Our home heating officer will take you through the agreement and make sure you have a hard copy to keep at home.  It outlines that if you continue to use your non-compliant wood burner (and meet certain conditions such as burning smoke free), Environment Canterbury will not enforce the rules regarding use of this non-compliant burner.

What do I do once my agreement is signed?

Burn well using good, dry wood and keep your burner appropriately maintained. Meet the conditions outlined your temporary agreement and take steps to ensure you comply by the time it ends.  Contact Environment Canterbury anytime if your circumstances change or if you have any questions about your temporary agreement.

When are agreements reviewed?

Annually in spring – usually September or October.

What happens if my agreement is terminated? What do I have to do? How long would I have to comply?

If terminated, you would need to stop using your non-compliant wood burner and find an alternative heating source.

What is an ‘insert model’ ultra-low emission wood burner?

This is an ultra-low emission wood burner that can be inserted into the space currently used by an older-style wood burner.  None have yet been authorised to sell in Canterbury, but with ultra-low emission wood burner technology continuing to improve we hope that one will be available in the next couple of years.

How will you know if I am burning with no visible smoke?

Our home heating officers do a programme of checking for smoky chimneys and providing people with better burning information for approximately eight weeks over winter.  We also investigate complaints to our Pollution Hotline when possible.

What will you do if you spot my chimney smoking?

For people who have been given a temporary waiver, we would make contact with the homeowner if the chimney is seen smoking for more than 15 minutes.  We would provide education about better burning if needed. If no improvement is seen after multiple contacts with the home owner, their temporary waiver would be terminated.

What is the “no visible smoke” rule?

Under the Canterbury Air Regional Plan, chimneys should not smoke for more than 15 minutes at start-up and 5 minutes at refuelling.  You can see a lot of information about how to burn smoke-free at www.warmercheaper.co.nz/burning/, and you can also arrange for a free, in-home better burning demonstration by contacting  0800 329 276.

How do I know if my wood burner is non-compliant?

Older-style wood burners installed 15 or more years ago need to be replaced on properties measuring under 2 hectares in the Timaru Clean Air Zone.  To get personalised information about what steps you need to take to comply, please call us on 0800 329 276.

Can I get financial assistance?

Environment Canterbury offers subsidies of up to $5000 for low income households that need to change their wood burner.  However, please note that currently most of the subsidy budgets are allocated until July 2018.  You can review the eligibility criteria here in the meantime.  This option is still available after 31 October 2017 even if your wood burner is expired.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Contact Environment Canterbury customer services on 0800 329 276.