Permanent fire ban proposal sparks debate in Hawke's Bay

A proposal for a permanent fire ban in Hawke's bay region has fired up debate

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Smoke from burnoffs has led to a breach of the air quality standards in Hastings already this year and one councillor says the ban is overdue. Source: 1 NEWS

Councillor Rex Graham wants to see all fire stopped across the Heretaunga Plains.

“I don’t think regionally that we have our heads around this, the particles in this smoke are very dangerous to the health of our community, that’s just the facts,” he told 1 NEWS.

With households using woodfires during colder months.

In two zones around Napier and Hastings, outdoor burning is prohibited between May and August to stop air pollution rising to unacceptable levels.

But rural areas outside the zones are exempt. That’s not good enough for Mr Graham

“It’s an exemption to pollute and I’m not happy about anyone having the exemption to pollute," he said.

“When smoke goes up and the wind changes the smoke goes where it likes you can’t control smoke by a line in the ground.”

Orchard and vineyard owners can burn for redevelopment of their sites.

Alan Pollard from Apples and Pears NZ says some growers believe a complete ban is too restricting.

“It will certainly penalise certain growers who are already distressed because of the Covid lockdown and perhaps there is a better way of addressing this then a blanket ban.”

National air standards were breached in the Hastings area last month.

Hawke's Bay DHB supports the ban and says thousands of people's health is affected by the particles released by outdoor burning entering their airways and lungs. It says children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are most at risk.

But the industry wants penalties ramped up.

“Fines are a deterrent and one thing at the moment it appears that penalties are relatively low and they are clearly not a deterrent because there are some that aren’t compliant with the rules,” Mr Pollard said.

The proposal for the ban is expected to go to council later this month.