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ORC issues warning about uncontrolled outdoor burning

ORC issues warning about uncontrolled outdoor burning

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is urging landowners to exercise care and control when starting outdoor fires and in doing so consider their neighbours’ health and that of the environment.

An open fire season now applies for most of the Otago region with territorial authorities and the Department of Conservation having lifted their fire bans, but outdoor fire permits are still required. Restrictions remain in some parts of the region.

ORC director of environmental monitoring and operations Jeff Donaldson said having an outdoor fire permit for a fire does not allow the holder to burn indiscriminately and without regard for their neighbours and the environment.

People should read their permit and note the ORC rules for discharges to air, which primarily means being considerate of neighbours by not causing objectionable and offensive smoke beyond a property boundary.

Landowners should factor in prevailing wind conditions when deciding whether to light an outdoor fire, Mr Donaldson said.

People thinking of burning autumn prunings also needed to be aware that when there are still conditions, a low inversion layer may well trap the smoke and cause extensive air pollution.

Mr Donaldson said ORC had received complaints in the past about people burning prohibited items such as tyres, washing machines, and plastic. Burning wet material should be avoided because of the large amounts of smoke produced.

Mr Donaldson said the number of complaints ORC had received about outdoor burning and backyard burning in recent years was too high.

“Protecting the environment and ensuring that people stay healthy and enjoy clean fresh air is vital. Where complaints about excessive smoke are upheld, instant fines of $300 may be imposed. Further enforcement action may also result depending on the severity of the incident,” he said.

In the year to June 2014, ORC received 117 complaints about outdoor burning (142 in 2012-13 and 81 in 2011-12). There were 81 backyard burning complaints in 2013-14 (102 in 2012-13 and 111 in 2011-12).

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