In a disappointing display of pandering to voters, Mayors Yule and Arnott have attacked the central government’s new clean air rules limiting smoke pollution. Reducing this pollution, which is ultra-hazardous to human health, will require — horror of horrors — upgraded wood burners and/or conversion by some to heat pumps.
As quoted here in the DomPost, Lawrence Yule calls the rules “ludicrous” and says he’s never heard a complaint about air quality in Hastings … “not once, ever.”
Here’s one, Mayor Yule. Twice in the past month I ventured into Hastings around 11pm on a cold weekend night to pick up my daughter. As soon as you enter the roundabout leaving Havelock North onto Havelock Road, you enter a smoke cloud. Immediately your eyes burn and you smell (as in inhale) the smoke. Try it sometime. Hastings had 27 nights in violation this year … only as far as August 4 (before my episodes). And with poor quality wood burners and poor insulation, what do you think the air is like inside those wood burning homes?
Barbara Arnott is even more outrageous: “A hundred and fifty thousand people in Hawke’s Bay should say they’re just not going to comply with this stupid legislation.”
Yeah, just let them suck it in, Mayor Arnott.
In contrast to this idiocy, here’s what Environment Minister Mallard has to say: “Every year, more New Zealanders die because of fine-particle air pollution … The toxins pumped into the air by open log fires and non-compliant wood-burners contribute to emphysema, heart disease, and premature death … We expect all councils to meet the air quality standard by 2013.”
It’s one thing for our local leaders to press their staffs to explore a wider range of options for tackling the problem and easing the financial burden. But it is totally irresponsible for them to suggest to the public that the problem doesn’t exist and should be ignored.
While they’re at it, why stop with air pollution controls? There are all kinds of “inconvenient” environmental rules and regulations out there. All of them originated by central government … none by local councils.
Because the wrong mindset is still in power, today’s local councils will never be hotbeds of environmental protection. They exist chiefly to build stuff — splash planets, roads, stop banks, roads, museums, roads, wastewater plants, roads, sports parks, roads, marinelands, roads — and they have a hard time getting even that done right or on budget.
Our mayors have no problem at all committing ratepayers to millions of dollars of expenditure for public monuments, but find it just too painful to protect public health.
These priorities will need to change. There are costs — but, to be sure, economic opportunities as well — involved in protecting the environment and natural assets of Hawke’s Bay. We need to front up to the costs and seize the opportunities. And find leaders who will set us on that path.