Housing New Zealand has got behind an Environment Waikato push to clean up the region’s air.
Following recent talks between the two agencies, Housing New Zealand Corporation has announced it will install heat pumps in its Waikato properties as wood burners wear out.
Wood burners are a major contributor to PM10, one of the region’s worst air pollutants.
About 25 properties in four areas where PM10 is known or suspected to be a problem – Hamilton, Te Kuiti, Huntly and Ngaruawahia – are already earmarked for the appliance swap this year.
Wood burners used for home heating contribute about 72 per cent of PM10 in Hamilton air, 67 per cent in Te Kuiti and 85 per cent in Ngaruawahia.
Environment Waikato planner Megan Collins said the move would help the council meet the National Environmental Standard (NES) for PM10 by the Government’s target date of 2013.
“This is part of our drive to get the region’s urban centres compliant with the national standard by the target date,” she said.
“In addition to PM10 being a regional health issue, if we don’t meet this target our ability to issue resource consents for new and existing industry could be hampered.”
Ms Collins said Environment Waikato was working with a range of organisations and approached Housing New Zealand because it was a major Waikato landlord.
“We really appreciate its proactive stance in helping us make the large-scale changes that are needed to reduce PM10 levels,” she said.
PM10 particles measure about a fifth the width of a human hair across and are small enough to get into human lungs. They can worsen asthma and allergies and contribute to respiratory illness and heart disease.
“Our current estimates show we’d need to replace about 500 existing solid fuel burners with heat pumps in Te Kuiti alone to meet the NES by 2013,” Ms Collins said.
“We are strongly encouraging Waikato home owners to follow Housing New Zealand’s example and choose clean burning heating options when their old solid fuel burners wear out to help us achieve improved air quality in our urban areas.”
Housing New Zealand regional manager Pia Searancke said the corporation was pleased Environment Waikato had approached it about improving air quality.
“Housing New Zealand is not just a landlord; we are seeking to use our housing services, resources and relationships to enhance New Zealand’s communities. Assisting with this project is one way we can work towards achieving that goal, and underscore our commitment to environmental responsibility.”