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Published: 2008-07-16 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is working to help Te Kuiti tackle air quality problems.

The town has twice exceeded the national air quality standard this year, by 38 per cent on May 15 and six per cent on June 20.  (July data is yet to be confirmed.)

Exceedances generally occur in winter, mainly because of smoke from home fires.

Smoke contains invisible particles (PM10) small enough to get into human lungs, which contribute to serious health problems such as respiratory illnesses, asthma and heart disease.

The need to reduce PM10 levels in Te Kuiti is becoming critical, for economic, as well as health, reasons.

The Government has put targets in place to reduce air pollution in New Zealand by 2013 and if these aren’t met, Environment Waikato will not be able to grant air discharge resource consents in towns not meeting the targets.

This could affect new and existing businesses, industries and jobs in Te Kuiti.

Environment Waikato has been talking to Waitomo District Council, Maniapoto Maori Trust Board and the Waitomo Health and Welfare Forum about how to tackle Te Kuiti’s air quality problems.

It hopes Te Kuiti could follow the lead of Tokoroa, where community groups have applied for Government funding to help people on low incomes insulate their homes and convert to cleaner forms of heating.

If Te Kuiti organisations could secure funding for insulation grants, Environment Waikato could help with grants for clean heating appliances, such as heat pumps and low-emission wood burners.

“Environment Waikato has money earmarked for Te Kuiti, but the grants would be for insulated homes,” Environment Waikato King Country councillor Andra Neeley said.

“We are very keen to address air quality problems in Te Kuiti, but it’s not something we can do on our own.  It’s a community issue and we need the backing of the whole community.”

Environment Waikato has already spent $300,000 installing clean heating appliances in Tokoroa, where a multi-agency project is installing insulation in low-income homes.  Groups involved include South Waikato District Council, the Raukawa Maori Trust Board, South Waikato Pacific Island Committee and Waikato District Health Board.

Energy Options, with the support of the Huntly Energy Efficiency Trust, has carried out the insulation retrofitting and the installation of new heaters.  Support funding has also been provided by the Government through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

Meanwhile, check out the tips below to find out how you can help to improve air quality in Te Kuiti.

Quick tips:

The best way to improve air quality is to insulate your home and upgrade to a low-emission heater, such as a heat pump, pellet burner or NES-compliant wood burner.

However, that is not possible for everyone.  If you need to keep using an older style wood burner you can help by:

· Cutting wood into pieces no more than 10-15cm thick.
· Using wood that has been stored in a dry, airy place for at least six months.
· Giving your fire plenty of air so it burns hotter.  If you can see smoke from your chimney, your fire needs more air.
· Not overloading the fire with wood.
· Not damping down your wood burner overnight – this creates more smoke and particles.
· Not burning rubbish, driftwood, painted wood or chemically treated wood.