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Published: 2011-08-05 00:00:00

Tokoroa has had four more PM10 exceedances in July, bringing the total number of exceedances in the town this winter to twelve.

Under national environmental standards, Tokoroa will be required to reduce the number of exceedances to no more than three per year by 2016, and one exceedance by 2020.

PM10 is carried in smoke from wood burning fires, and is increased when wet wood is burned. It is not visible to the human eye and is small enough to get into people’s lungs and cause serious health problems.

Waikato Regional Council programme manager Leanne Perry-Meyer said: “Tokoroa continues to have the worst air quality in the region, but the regional council is doing something about this by helping householders change to cleaner heating systems.”

The regional council plans to help reduce PM10 air pollution in Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taupo by spending $212,000 in 2011/12 on its Waikato Clean Heat Retrofit programme. This year’s programme is expected to start on 26 September.

Through the Waikato Clean Heat Retrofit programme, eligible homeowners will be offered free clean heat appliances, such as heat pumps, complying woodburners and pellet fires, to replace older, more polluting woodburners and open fires.

The regional council has run this programme in Tokoroa since 2007, and had made a total of 195 clean heat replacements in the town by the end of February 2011.

“We all need to stay warm over winter, but by burning dry wood alone, people can reduce PM10 levels by three to five times,” Ms Perry-Meyer added.

In addition, South Waikato District Council is providing $200,000 per year towards installing clean heat products in the district’s high deprivation areas.

“Council committed to funding improved insulation and the installation of clean heat products about three years ago,” said Amanda Hema, SWDC’s community development manager.

“This year too we will be introducing a clean heat incentive scheme for those ratepayers who fall outside the criteria for fully-funded assistance. We are confident that uptake for the scheme will mean a reduction in PM10.”

The clean heat incentive scheme is expected to start on 1 September. The council encourages ratepayers to keep an eye open for the advertising. Criteria apply and council staff will be available to assist with questions.