Twyford orchard

Environment Minister David Parker has proposed an Order in Council to allow temporary changes to burning rules that would allow landowners with tonnes of flood debris to undertake controlled burning in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti.

If approved, the Order in Council would take effect no later than 27 June and would expire on 15 December.

BayBuzz has previously covered this issue here and here.

Some properties have so much mixed debris it is not practical, cost effective or safe to attempt to sort the waste and recycle it in various waste streams.

The proposed rule would be issued under new legislation, the Severe Weather Emergency Act, that enables the use of Orders in Council to make quick law changes – in this case dissolving red tape to allow the burning.

A press release from Parker’s office said the change would be short-term and any burning would be subject to proper management standards to avoid risk from burning the debris.

“Some farmers and horticulturalists, especially in Hawke’s Bay, are under huge stress dealing with the fallout from the severe weather. Many have huge piles of waste, including materials like treated timber and plastics that are not allowed to be burned.

“The debris puts growers at risk of missing the June/July growing season, creating further threats to livelihoods already put at risk by severe weather damage.

“Therefore, we propose reclassifying the burning of mixed waste piles from a prohibited to a permitted activity, subject to standards overseen by councils. People will still need to comply with Fire and Emergency New Zealand requirements.”

“The permitted activity standards accompanying this temporary law change would include:

  • Steps to separate materials, where possible
  • Timing of the burn
  • Weather conditions
  • Preparation of a fire management plan
  • Notification of parties (e.g. fire services and public health)
  • Appropriate disposal of remaining waste material and ash
  • Site testing and remediation, if required

The Order in Council will be discussed by officials with affected parties and councils. A brief consultation period will take place between Friday 9 June and Tuesday 13 June.

“I believe these standards can manage the risks associated with open-air burning of mixed waste. They are preferable to maintaining the current ban, which risks landowners choosing to burn prohibited items with no controls in place,” David Parker said.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council welcomed the MfE advice.

Regional Councillor Xan Harding said it was good news, progressing cyclone recovery.

“What we don’t know is the detail. Staff are working on maximising the recovery and recycling options particularly for plastics. and we want that information to go out as much as possible, as a package so that growers and landowners have a really clear idea of their practical options.”

There may be some residual debris that will end up going to landfilled at some point. 

“We need to know what the criteria are to exclude the worst, and put that aside. It’s impossible to take out your coated wire and get out everything.” 

The safest burns would be woody materials, but some burns would contain a lot of undesirable material and authorities would work to make sure as much of that material was recycled or landfilled. Any burn would be done to best practice to ensure as clean a burn as possible, Harding said.

Asked if he thought the proposal had happened fast enough, he said no. 

However, he commented that Regional Council had benefited from the energy and experience that interim chief executive Bill Bayfield had brought to the table. Bayfield had done a good job of navigating Ministry politics and balancing environmental and human risk, he said.

Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand on Air.


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