The Canterbury Air Regional Plan (Air Plan) became operative on 31 October 2017, and makes significant changes to the rules relating to home heating. It's important that anyone who uses a wood-burner or pellet burner (solid fuel burner), or who is looking to install one, understands these changes.

The Air Plan identifies 'Clean Air Zones' – in particular these include Christchurch, Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Ashburton, Timaru, Geraldine and Waimate. This article concentrates on the impact of the Air Plan on homeowners within any of the Clean Air Zones. In general, for properties outside the Clean Air Zones, the restrictions on solid fuel burners are much less stringent.

The most critical change is the absolute prohibition of "older style woodburners". These are essentially any burners that do not meet the 'Low Emission' or 'Ultra Low Emission' standards. If your solid fuel burner is not approved by Environment Canterbury, it is prohibited to use. This same prohibition applies to open fires in any of the Clean Air Zones.

The Air Plan authorises the use of Low Emission Burners for 20 years from installation (note that this is restricted to 15 years in the Timaru zone).

From 31 October 2017, any solid fuel burner installed must be an ultra-low emission burner. These can be installed into new houses, or existing houses that haven't had solid fuel burners previously (which is a change from the previous rules, which only allowed the replacement of an existing solid fuel burner). Any ultra-low emission burner must be on the list of authorised burners, developed by Environment Canterbury.

The rules also introduce a requirement that there is no visible discharge from the burner for more than 15 minutes after start-up, and 5 minutes after re-fuelling.

It will also be important to ensure that any fuel burnt is sourced from an appropriate supplier, as the rules introduce limits on moisture content and sulphur content.

Finally, all solid fuel burners must be registered with Environment Canterbury, and maintained in accordance with the Air Plan. If you did not install the solid fuel burner at your property, it would be worthwhile to ensure that Environment Canterbury have all the correct details relating to your burner.

At this stage, it is difficult to know how strictly Environment Canterbury will enforce its new rules. It's important to note that both the District Councils and Environment Canterbury have records of all burners which required building consent to install. On that basis, it would be reasonable to assume that there may be follow up with homeowners who have an "older style burner" registered on their property.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.