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New Burning Guides To Increase Awareness Of Air Quality

Did you know there are changes to domestic and outdoor burning rules in Marlborough to help improve our air quality?

The Council’s ‘Burning Guides’ have had a refresh and an update to increase awareness of these new management measures which are contained in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP). Four new guides have been produced. Two are on domestic wood burning - a summary of the rules and a guide on the best way to operate your burner. The other two cover outdoor burning - a fact sheet and a best practice guide.

Environmental Scientist Sarah Brand said the Council needed to alert the public to new rules around burning contained in the PMEP. “The PMEP has introduced some new regulations surrounding domestic and outdoor burning in an effort to improve air quality in Marlborough and meet the National Environmental Standard for Air Quality (NESAQ),” said Sarah.

The rules are complex but a summary of the standards relating to indoor burners includes:

  • Discharge from an enclosed pellet burner of any age, and installed at any time is permitted
  • Discharge from an enclosed wood burner installed after 1 September 2005 is permitted
  • Discharge from any indoor open fire is prohibited (unless the fire is used exclusively for the cooking or smoking of food for wholesale or retail sale)
  • Discharge from any small scale solid fuel burner not described above is permitted until the burner reaches 15 years of age
  • Discharge from any small scale solid fuel burner installed after 9 June 2016 is permitted.

Outdoor burning within the Blenheim Airshed is now a prohibited activity unless the fire is used exclusively for the cooking or smoking of food for non-commercial purposes (all year round). A brazier is permitted but cannot be used during the months of May, June, July or August, and cannot involve the burning of any prohibited fuels/materials. This applies to all zones within the Blenheim Airshed.

The main air contaminant of concern for New Zealand is particulate matter (PM). The National Environmental Standards (NES) currently focuses on PM10 but the Ministry for the Environment is proposing a change to reduce this further to PM2.5 by later this year or early 2022. In 2005, regional councils were required to outline urban areas which either were, or were likely to exceed, the NES for PM10. These areas were termed airsheds. In Marlborough, Blenheim is currently the only designated airshed.

“The air quality in Marlborough does not meet the NESAQ during the winter months and historically Blenheim has been non-compliant with the NES for PM10,” said Sarah.

In 2020, there were three exceedances of the allowed levels – only one exceedance is allowed under the NES so Blenheim breached that twice. So far this winter Blenheim has exceeded this level five times. “With the move to reduce this further to PM2.5we are likely to see many more breaches unless we can begin to change habits and work on educating the public on how they can help make a difference to air quality,” said Sarah.

Air Emission Inventories are carried out every five years to find the source and proportion of air pollutants. Blenheim’s most recent Air Emission Inventory was completed in 2017. This showed 90% of emissions contributing to PM10 originated from home heating, 8% was from outdoor burning, with industry and transport both contributing 1% each.

Smoke nuisance and burning of prohibited materials are the most common reasons behind outdoor-burning related complaints made to the Council’s Compliance team. “Many people approached by Compliance about burning activities are unaware of the rules so we have also updated our educational material to give to the public when called out to smoke complaints,” said Sarah.

The new guides will be provided to relevant organisations working in this space to help improve awareness around air quality issues and the rules around burning in Marlborough,” she said.

This includes providing a copy of the guide with building consents for log fires and in information packs for new property owners. A letter will be sent to co-operating agencies along with the burning guides to advise them of Council’s focus to improve air quality.

To view the Council’s new Burning Guides go to:


For more information on the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP) go to:


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