Archive | Health

Council holds back on banning open home fires

Published 17 February 2012

An Auckland Council committee held back yesterday on banning open fires in the home, as much to get its procession of plans into the right order as for the opposition to the measure.

Banning open fires in homes from 2014 in the urban area was recommended by the council’s environment & sustainability forum after it debated the question last year, and was supported by an 18-page report. The idea of the forums is that they work on new ideas, sometimes forwarding recommendations to a parent committee, as in this case.

The recommendation on domestic emissions came as the first of proposed emission recommendations, with others on transport & industrial emissions to follow.

But from the tone of yesterday’s committee meeting, this recommendation was plainly out of sync with the series of plans the council is working on – a long-term plan, a spatial plan, area plans and a unitary plan (this last, to implement the policies of the first 2).

It was also very short on evidence that the costs to households had been fully analysed, that costs in terms of the effects on health had been analysed as well as they might have been and – based on 2006 data – that it was either up to date or, 6 years on, accurate.

The result was that the committee supported continuing funding options for retrofitting homes, agreed to consider community education frowning on using treated or wet wood in home fireplaces, agreed in principle to consider using bylaws to regulate air pollution from home fires (to be confirmed in April), but rejected the ban on open fires until a further report is received in May.

Cllr Arthur Anae questioned the need for change because of the takeup of heat pumps, and a number of councillors recoiled at the thought of forcing 27,000 non-complying households to spend an estimated $3-4000 each to get a compliant woodburner.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the unitary plan set out clearly it would be outcomes focused: “I’d like to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves. After the unitary plan, I would imagine the next step would be bylaws. I think we need first to have a discussion about approach. Prostitution is another one, we haven’t yet had a discussion about our approach, outcomes, then bylaw…. I think a rushed bylaw now separate from the unitary plan process is not what we want.”

Cllr Des Morrison said the bylaw review programme would be spread over 5 years: “At this stage I would not see this coming in before the unitary plan draft.”

Cllr Mike Lee: “Obviously the recommendations are well meaning (but) I’ve been disappointed emphasis has come off vehicle emissions and on to households. I resent being told that if we do not do as we’re told the minister’s going to come up with a big stick. If we were totally to accept the standards for industrial emissions, vehicle emissions and emissions from households, I suspect they (industry & transport) are forceful lobbies which can hit back. I don’t believe it is fair & logically justifiable (to hit households). The fact is, open fires are being phased out.”

Forum chairman Wayne Walker commented: “Our officers & forum haven’t taken our eye off transport emissions. We also have to put in our minds retrofitting, improving the health of Aucklanders. We have to transform this city and this is part of that package so let’s have the big city hats on next time.”

Cllr Callum Penrose introduced the parish pump element to the debate: “Our kids do firewood for fundraisers, it keeps them out of crime. I just wonder how far we go. Do we ban sausage sizzles if the sausages are too fatty?”

Council air specialist Herb Familton said the bigger consideration was the Government’s air quality standard, which required the council to meet the standard by 2016. He said by starting with a bylaw now instead of waiting for the unitary plan to be put in place, the council could react more quickly.

Cllr Sandra Coney seized on that point, and the potential impact on businesses if the standard wasn’t met in Auckland by the designated date: “I’m particularly interested in implications for new industry if we don’t meet the standard by 2016.”

Mr Familton: “First, new emitters would be banned. If we are not compliant, industry will have to offset, which means they will to remove pump sources, so that’s going to be a cost for industry. A new industry which needs a new discharge consent will have to buy offsets. The minister has already written compliance strategy. If the council isn’t compliant with the national environmental standards, there will be a graduated step of questions to the council, and the minister has powers under the Resource Management Act to require things to be done.”

Cllr Coney: “So we can’t drag the chain on this. It’s actually not a heavy-handed approach at this stage. It’s incremental. As the environmental agency for Auckland, we’re going to look pretty stupid (by not implementing the policy), so I support the recommendations.”

Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

Continue Reading

Smith changes rules on clean air

Published 31 January 2011

Environment Minister Nick Smith announced a new plan for clean air at the weekend, intended to toughen measures to reduce pollution but giving councils more time to meet air quality standards. The changes include an easing of rules for industrial consents.

Dr Smith told the Bluegreens Forum in Akaroa: “New Zealand needs to strike a careful balance between the pace we improve air quality and the impacts on jobs & household costs. We need to replace our old & open domestic fires, invest in cleaner technology in our factories and continue to shift to modern low-polluting vehicles. These changes need to be paced to maximise the health benefits while minimising the economic costs.

"Change is needed because Labour’s 2004 policy was poorly implemented, unrealistic & unfair. 15 airsheds – including Auckland, Christchurch & many provincial centres covering 40% of our population – are unlikely to comply by the 2013 deadline. The blunt enforcement provision only penalises industry, prohibiting new or existing industrial consents being renewed, and puts at risk an estimated 17,000 jobs."

The key changes to the air quality standards are:

Extending the compliance timeframe to achieve not more than one exceedance/year from 2013 to 2016 for areas with moderate air pollution – areas recording fewer than 10 exceedances/ year on average over the period 2005-09, eg Auckland (5), Napier (4), Blenheim (4), Hamilton (2)Extending the compliance timetable to achieve not more than one exceedance/year from 2013 to 2020 for areas with high air pollution – greater than 10 exceedances/year, eg Timaru (39), Nelson (37), Rotorua (30), Christchurch (21), Hastings (18), Ashburton (16) – with a requirement to get below 3 exceedances by 2016Amending the exceptional events such as volcanic eruptions, bushfires & Australian dust storms from the count of exceedance events.

"These timing changes have been heavily influenced by cost:benefit analysis. This shows the slower timetable in the new policy reduces the health benefits slightly from $1911 million to $1746 million, but also significantly reduces the economic costs from $867 million to $196 million. This reflects the lesser costs of achieving the improvements in air quality over a more realistic timetable. The new standard is also complemented by measures to reduce air pollution from homes, industry & vehicles.”

Dr Smith said the Government was investing heavily in helping households to shift to clean heat, with 20,000 homes converted in 2 years after 800 were converted in the previous decade.

The new national standard will also introduce a prohibition on the building of new household open fire places in all polluted airsheds from September 2012. Dr Smith said an open fire produced 8 times as much air pollution as an approved log burner and 20 times as much as a pellet fire.

"The new national standard also includes a mandatory offset regime for new industrial consents in polluted airsheds from September 2012.  This measure will replace the blunt tool of prohibiting any new consent where areas fail to meet the required air quality standard.

"Progressive changes in rules for second-hand cars in 2008, 2009 & next year will reduce particulate pollution by 90% and similar changes are being made for new & heavy vehicles. Fuel standards are also progressively being improved.

"This new air quality policy follows on from concerns raised at the 2009 job summit, the technical advisory group report in late 2008 and the consultation on the draft changes in 2010. This extensive consultation & analysis has produced a robust policy that will deliver clean air at an affordable cost."

Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Ministerial release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

Continue Reading

High legionella count in 2 city buildings

Published 28 December 2007

The regional health service, city council & Property Council opted tonight to keep Auckland cbd building users in the dark over which 2 towers had a high legionella count in routine testing.


The building owners told their tenants but the affected buildings weren’t named. The Property Council told its members about the incidence but didn’t name the buildings.


The Auckland Regional Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health, Dr Cathy Pikholz, played down the risk of illness and said people should go about their business as usual. But, she added: “People are advised to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms suggestive of legionellosis.”


The service told the city council, whose acting chief executive, John Duthie, said the owner of the first building found to have had a high legionella count had moved quickly to have the cooling towers cleaned up. But, he said: “In the last 24 hours we have been advised that another building has tested with high levels of the bacteria.”


While Mr Duthie said the council & the health service “are working together to address the situation”, they chose not to inform building visitors which buildings had been tested and cleared or found wanting. Mr Duthie said the council was advising all cbd building owners to take the precaution of testing for legionella, which can cause Pontiac fever, legionellis and Legionnaire’s disease, and to chlorinate their systems, retest & report their results.


“There are no reports of anyone having fallen ill with the diseases caused by legionella bacteria, but we ask that this testing be done before the next due date. Single isolated cases are ordinarily resolved with the assistance of the affected building owner. The reason for this public announcement is due to the second instance of this bacteria.


“The 2 buildings with high levels may be a coincidence, but the council and the Regional Public Health Service need the data to make a judgment as to whether or not there is cause for greater concern.”


Fact sheet, symptoms


The health service fact sheet on legionella says the bacteria can be found in any type of water system: “They have been found in the environment in creeks, ponds & potting soil. The bacteria are prevalent in warm stagnant water such as can occur in plumbing systems, hotwater tanks, water in cooling towers, evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems & spa pools. Home & automobile air-conditioners are not a source of legionella bacteria.


“The disease is acquired after inhaling mists or spray from a water source that contains legionella bacteria. The disease cannot be contracted by drinking water that is contaminated, nor can it be passed from one person to another.”


Symptoms of legionellosis include muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite & coughing followed by high fever, chills & occasionally diarrhoea. In the milder form of the disease, Pontiac fever, those flu-like symptoms will eb present but no pneumonia. In the more severe form, Legionnaire’s disease, pneumonia will be present on clinical examination & chest X-ray.


Those the service said were most at risk are older people, heavy smokers, people with chronic lung disease or conditions that lower immunity, or are on immune-suppressing drugs such as high doses of steroids.


The legionella fact sheet said contact with the bacteria led only rarely to infection and most people’s natural immunity stopped them from falling ill. In 2005 there were 11 confirmed cases of legionellosis in the Auckland region and 3 people died during an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Christchurch.


Website: Disease fact sheets

Canterbury health board 2005 releases, including a number on legionella


Want to comment? Click on The new BD Central Forum or email [email protected].

Attribution: Health service, city council & Property Council releases, health service fact sheet, Canterbury health board 2005 releases, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

Continue Reading