August 12, 2020
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World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 each year, as an opportunity to raise awareness and promote action on national environmental issues. The 2019 theme is #BeatAirPollution.

Internationally, air quality is one of the greatest environmental health issues, with 91% of the world’s population living in places where air quality exceeds World Health Organisation guideline limits*. Environment Canterbury director of air quality Tafflyn Bradford-James says that Canterbury is bucking the trend.

“Our air is clearing, thanks to thousands of Cantabrians who have switched to cleaner forms of home heating such as heat pumps and ultra-low emission wood burners,” she said.

In 2018, six of eight of Canterbury’s airsheds met the National Environmental Standard for Air Quality (NESAQ).

“While air quality in Canterbury, and throughout New Zealand, is generally good, we know that some towns in our region face challenges in the winter due to cooler temperatures and geographical factors,” said Bradford-James.

“We know that emissions from home-heating – inefficient wood burners along with poor fuels and burning technique – are responsible for most of the winter pollution in our region.

“Our winter air programme runs from May until September and focuses on helping people upgrade to cleaner heating technology (like heat pumps or ultra-low emission wood burners), as well as providing information on how to burn smoke-free and save on firewood. Support available includes temporary waivers, financial assistance and free advice on better burning. In the South Canterbury clean air zones, proactive monitoring for smoky chimney begins this week, with a focus on educating residents about better burning where needed.

“Promising progress has been made over recent years thanks to action from the communities within clean air zones phasing out older wood burners and replacing them with alternative more efficient, cleaner forms of heating.”

Ultra-low emission burners

One such alternative is the ultra-low emission burner (ULEB). The burner testing method developed here in Canterbury, known as Canterbury Method 1, is enabling world-leading innovation in reduced emissions burners. Burners are tested to make sure they can pass an emissions and efficiency test, before authorising them for use based on their factory settings.

ULEBs are the cleanest solid fuel burners, and under the current Canterbury Air Regional Plan, they can be installed and used indefinitely in the region. More than 20 different types of ultra-low emission burners are now authorised, with the first instant.