21 Oct 2014

Fears families will suffer over fire ban

7:06 pm on 21 October 2014

There are fears thousands of Auckland families will be left in the cold and at risk of health problems if they are not given financial help to replace their indoor fires.

The Auckland Council is proposing a bylaw which bans all open fires and pre-2005 woodburners

by 2018, and people selling homes with fireplaces or burners which do not comply would need to remove or disable them under the bylaw.

Local board members and city councillors are worried about the financial burden on families on lower incomes.

Albert-Eden Local Board member Margi Watson said Housing New Zealand told her it would replace a fire with one form of heating - probably an electric wall heater.

"They're talking about putting in one electric heater into one room in Housing New Zealand homes," she said.

"I have neighbours who are Housing New Zealand homes. They have seven family members sleeping in the lounge because it's the only room they can heat in the whole house, and that's got to be bad for our communities."

Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said the change was being forced upon it by central Government, and it was writing to the relevant ministers to ask how they intended to help.

"We cannot let the Government off the hook on this. It is utterly critical that the Government come to the party," she said.

"This is their legislation, their decision, you can't on one hand say 'get rid of your open fires' and on the other hand say 'we're not going to support the funding'."

Councillors at today's meeting were told a health report from two years ago says emissions from home heating fires led to 110 premature deaths, 50 respiratory hospital admissions and 26 cardiac hospital admissions in Auckland each year.

Council policy manager Helgard Wagener told councillors poor air quality was a killer.

"It's estimated about 110 adults die prematurely because of the high exceedances," he said.

"Obviously that's the worst case."

The bylaw is expected to go out for public consultation next month, with public hearings next February.

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