Remember back when our mayors, MPs and Regional Council were trying their utmost to delay a central government mandate to cleanup PM10 pollution by 2013?

To remind you, PM10 consists of the small particulates — in this region, caused overwhelmingly by woodburning for heat in homes, using poor quality woodburners — that get sucked into the lungs, causing anything from aggravated asthma to lung cancer.

Our elected leaders fell all over each other — some flatly and ignorantly denying that there was any health hazard at all — to lobby the Government to delay enforcement of entirely justified new standards set by the Labour Government. And of course the National Government complied, delaying required compliance by seven years — from 2013 to 2020. This despite the fact that HBRC and our local bodies knew for years that they would need to meet new standards … standards that were in fact already being met elsewhere in NZ.

Last week, researchers reported that woodburning in deficient home woodburners claimed an estimated 653 lives per year in NZ … 41 of those in Hawke’s Bay. 41 lives per year in Hawke’s Bay. That’s appreciably more than all the bashings and traffic accidents studiously reported by HB Today.

Last week, HBRC filed a legally required (and buried) notice in HB Today that Hastings District exceeded the new standards six days in July (Napier had no exceedances), more than the same period last year. The new guidelines allow only 1 exceedance per year, but, as noted above, that limit does not now need to be met until 2020.

Councils, where are all the media releases celebrating those results?

Tom Belford

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  1. Hit the nail on the head with the comment "That’s appreciably more than all the bashings and traffic accidents studiously reported by HB Today". What is it with the mainstream medias fasination with short term problems and solutions rather than the long term?

  2. 41 deaths related to woodburners? now come on …….what co mobidities did these 41 have? What age did these people fall into? Stats need more than a number and more info to be taken seriously…….

  3. Go for a walk early in the morning, or early evening this time of year, and there are times when you have to hold your breath, not just wood burning.

    Late at night and in the small hours, the smoke that rises from some houses with their burners on the big low, makes you think, but if you are employed by the R/C, chances are you are tucked up in bed, sleeping after a hard day at the office.

    Oh Dear.

  4. The number of estimated deaths is significantly higher than my gut instinct, which means either that my gut instinct is wrong or the modelling has some issues.

    I did a little bit of looking at the source information and found that one of the key relationships in the model was a linear relationship (with no base threshold) between P10 concentrations and premature mortality. This in turn was based on studies by Joel Schwartz, a researcher on air pollution.

    Personally, I am surprised by a relationship like this. I would have thought that it would have been log/linear with a small threshold, below which there was no premature mortality. However I have not analysed primary source data and mortality relationships are not my field of expertise.

    So what does this mean? Well I do think that reducing PM10 emissions is a good goal, and will save lives, I also wonder if the number of deaths inferred to have occurred has been overestimated. As is often said "more research is required" but carrying out research should not stop us from taking action.

  5. What a load of buncum 41 deaths from local fire smoke per year in Hawkes Bay I find it very hard to believe. While I accept at times (your research said six times this year) the polution level may break a threshold but can I suggest ask Christchurch consumers if it was a wise move to change to heat pumps and they would point out they made a mistake.Dry firewood it the answer to reducing polution from domestic households We also need better cooperation from the farming and horticulture industry to reducing the timing of burnoffs,ensuring there is enough wind to stop the layering of burnoff smoke in winter and no burning of prunings at the weekends. Our tourists need to be able to see clean sky,s .We dont think enough about who we are effecting before burning off.

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