28 November 2014
ES asked to delay implementing new air quality rules
The Gore District Council wants Environment Southland to defer its proposed rules around the use of open fires and burning high sulphur coal until after it hears what the public has to say about the draft Regional Air Quality Plan for Southland.
Councillors discussed the issue as an urgent late item at this week's regulatory and planning committee meeting.
Environment Southland received an estimated 750 submissions to its draft air quality plan, a significant number of which came from residents in the Gore airshed. It expects to hear submissions in the second quarter of next year, with decisions likely in July/August.
However, the proposed rules came into effect on 6 September this year when the draft plan was notified. They include banning the use of high sulphur coal from 1 January 2015 and banning open fires from 1 September.
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks says that’s not fair to residents and Environment Southland should wait until after it has heard submissions and finalised the plan before these rules come into effect.
“Given the ground swell of public opinion against some of the rules, they could change after the hearings. Therefore we are, in essence, putting people in the position where they have to choose between staying warm or breaking the law.”
Environment Southland staff has said the rule would not be enforced during the consultation process but this was little comfort for Gore residents, Mr Hicks said.
Mr Hicks believed anyone who acted contrary to the proposed rules could put their home insurance at risk.
“People have made it clear to the Council that they want to stay warm, within the law and insured while the final version of the air quality plan is developed.”
This can only be provided with certainty if Environment Southland undertakes a variation to the draft plan. Mr Hicks said the Council would like the rules deleted. Alternatively, they should be deferred for at least 12 months to allow time for the submission process.
The Council has also asked that the summary of submissions be notified after the the Christmas/New Year break so residents who are away on holiday are not disadvantaged.