Illegal fire users on notice

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Some illegal home fire users have been given a final warning to find a new heat source or face a $300 fine as part of a clamp down by Nelson City Council.

Older wood burning fires in the region have been phased out as part of a plan to clean up the city’s air pollution. Many had to be upgraded by a certain date or that home would lose the right to use one, even if it was still in the home.  That date has passed for all homes and the council has started to enforce its bylaw, issuing abatement notices to around a dozen homes, with more to come.

The council’s manager of environmental inspection, Stephen Lawrence says the notices give users of illegal fireplaces six weeks to find alternative heating or they will face a fine of $300. He says the enforcement programme has only just begun but it is likely staff will walk the streets to see if smoke is coming from homes they know do not have a compliant fire.

“It’s keeping faith with the people that have done the right thing and the good news is air pollution has dropped significantly in Nelson so that’s a good thing,” he says.

The enforcement programme to identify non-compliant fires has been running for a fortnight now and the council checks off those who have had new fires or heat pumps put in their homes.

Council staff then use their records to find the homes that haven’t upgraded, make contact with them and talk over the options.

“In due course we will do cross checks by going out and doing a visual inspection to see if there is smoke coming out of the chimney. If they fail to comply they run the risk of an infringement fine and if they continued we could get an enforcement order from the Environment Court or we could prosecute but we hope we never have to go that far,” he says.

Stephen says the council does not know how many homes are not compliant as the enforcement programme has just started. But around 15 abatement notices have been sent.

“The council view is that this whole thing has been pretty well published and notified over the years that the phase out has been carried out,” he says.