About 75,000 Auckland households will need to be careful about how they use their fireplaces under newly proposed burning restrictions.
On Thursday Auckland councillors discussed a draft air quality bylaw for indoor fires which would ban the burning of wet timber and certain types of coal.
The proposed bylaw comes after another proposed bylaw that would have banned all domestic open fireplaces was canned in 2015.
Auckland Council’s manager of social policy and bylaws Michael Sinclair said the new bylaw would not force people to stop using indoor open fires.
Instead, if the bylaw goes ahead it will prohibit burning high-sulphur coal and damp timber that produces a lot of smoke or causes a nuisance to neighbours.
Auckland has about 58,000 old pre-2005 wood burners in homes and 17,000 open fireplaces.
The proposal for the bylaw comes after a “regulatory gap” appeared with the creation of Auckland’s unitary plan.
In Thursday’s meeting councillors Wayne Walker and Chris Darby raised the issue of premature deaths caused by wood fires and questioned why information about that was not going to be included in the proposal.
“These are health issues and particularly the elderly and young are extremely vulnerable,” Darby said.
A report given to Auckland Council in 2012 said air pollution was responsible for 200 premature deaths a year. Motor vehicles and domestic fires are considered the two largest sources of air pollution in Auckland.
Darby said he didn’t think the bylaw went far enough.
“I don’t think it is good enough to have open fires belching stuff into the neighbourhood and killing people.”
Councillor Christine Fletcher said her problem with the bylaw was that it was 35 pages when she said the information could have been fitted into a single page.
Sinclair said the bylaw was 35 pages because of the complicated nature of redefining urban areas because of unitary plan changes.
Councillor Daniel Newman said regardless of air quality his first priority was that people remained warm.
“The most important need is for people to be warm and dry in winter.”
The proposed bylaw was adopted and will go to public consultation.
Council wants the bylaw to be in action by winter this year.