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.


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  1. Good grief, well done Tom. When I was a Hastings City Ward Councillor with the Hastings District Council I dealt with a number of complaints on behalf of Constituents, ranging from the burning of medical waste, backyard 'bon fires' and incineraters to household wood fires.

    Infact I recall several people from Havelock North seeking my help.

    I think that Lawrence and Barbara's responce is short sighted and avoiding the reality that we will ultimately need to clean up our act!

    Arrogant avoidance is unbecoming of both these civic leaders.

    Dean Hyde

  2. Extraordinary! Arnott calls for civil disobedience (break the law) to a problem Yule suggests doesn't exist, yet the problem has been identified and quantiified. Open fires cause serious illness. More so than passive smoking! This Government (it is election season) is a Nanny because changing this sort of nappy always causes a stink. But like the legislation to give children the right not to be smacked National, Greens & Maori parties support the ban on unfiltered open fires. Arnott & Yule are behaving as they did with the DHB saga, making a huge fuss, grabbing for headlines, before they thoughtfully consider the issue.

  3. Thanks for that, Tom

    I dont have Lawrence email addy at my fingertip

    Would you forward this? Copy to Rod Heaps too?

    Dear Lawrence,

    I didnt find your comments about air pollution quoted in Dompost helpful. While their motivation may be laudable re costs to ratepayers etc I think they are shortsighted.

    There is obviously a discussion to be had and I think you and yours (HDC) could be leading it.

    My interest is, immediately, fairly selfish.

    I have a woodburner which I would like to replace with a new and better wood burner.

    There seem to be 3 types of woodburners;

    1. Old, inefficient. They will burn all night and just need a poke in the morning to get them going. I used to think they were great until I understood that they are terribly inefficient when damped down, wasting my firewood and pumping creosote into the night and therefore not doing nobody no good.

    As of 3 years ago HDC will not permit you to install one of these.

    However there must be a lot of them in use( HDC will know) responsible for some/most/all? of the pollution problem

    Open fires belong in this category

    Fires in this category are BAD

    2.New, inefficient woodburners. Not as bad as 1 above.

    You can get a permit to install because they don’t burn all night.

    Because they are low efficiency (or because efficiency has not been verifiably measured) they will still pollute due to incomplete combustion.

    3. New, efficient woodburners ( a very few old ones belong in this category)

    These are much more efficient than 1 & 2 above therefore maximising heat produced.

    Dont burn through the night.

    Very low polluters


    I’m very happy to be corrected on any of this.

    This is the stuff I need to be informed in deciding on my heating needs.

    It would be helpful to know which brands are the best or is that not something HDC can recommend. ( if so, why is that?)

    I will have to spend some money, I know, but, if an extra $500 will give me a measurably better result ( re efficiency, output and pollution) that’s not a lot over 20 years.

    I live in Clive, do we have the problem here that Hastings and Napier do ( I’ll add my complaint to Tom’s)

    I have my own decision to make but I think it would be useful to have some information in the wider debate.

    You have thus far reacted in ‘defence’ of your constituents, thats ok.

    The next bit is to work out what to do about the problem and how best to fix it.

    Yes, of course we’ll grizzle about the bloody council forcing us to spend money but you knew that.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Peter Maclean

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