Good quality wood equals healthier communities

With winter closing in and warm fires becoming more tempting, Horizons Regional Council is reminding the community of the importance of burning good quality, dry firewood. 

Burning green, wet and treated wood, as well as other household items including rubbish, plastics, oils and food scraps, can have a detrimental impact on both human health and the environment.

Horizons environmental scientist Harold Barnett says the Council hopes to raise awareness of the importance of using good wood through winter with an air quality campaign that kicked off in March and will run until approximately September.

“Air quality in the Horizons Region is generally pretty good when compared to the national picture. However, in some urban areas wood burners used for home heating combined with the local topography can create issues for air quality.

“Burning green, wet or treated wood releases undesirable chemicals, gases and fine particles into the air. This reduces the quality of the air we breathe and can affect human health,” Mr Barnett says.

To help keep our air clean and neighbours healthy, Mr Barnett recommends a few simple steps:

  • Burn dry firewood, as it burns more efficiently providing more heat and emits fewer particles into the air
  • Don’t burn treated wood, household waste (especially plastics and oils) or food scraps
  • Buy dry wood early and store it correctly
  • Have your chimney swept annually
  • Ensure your home is well insulated
  • If possible, install a National Environment Standard (NES) compliant wood burner

“Burning dry firewood creates warmer and more efficient fires that smoke less and emit fewer fine particles known as PM10. This leads to clean air and overall healthier communities,” Mr Barnett says.

In addition to home heating, Mr Barnett says there are several things people should be aware of when burning vegetation and rubbish on their properties.

“When burning rubbish or vegetation it’s important to consider wind direction, odour and the impact that smoke or particulate matter might have on your neighbours.

“Burning rubber, PVC, plastic, waste oil, treated or painted timber and agricultural waste in your backyard is strictly prohibited. We urge people to think about those around them before burning rubbish and ensure they are doing all they can to be a good and considerate neighbour,” he says.

If you would like to learn more about air quality visit www.horizons.govt.nz/managing-natural-resources/air. If you have any concerns about air quality in your area, or any other questions regarding fires this winter, contact the Horizons Regional Council Pollution Hotline on freephone number 0508 800 800.