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Air quality breaches climb

Air pollution in Essex St, Masterton. PHOTO/FILE

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Winter has only just begun, and already there have been 11 air quality breaches in Masterton East and eight in Masterton West since the start of May.

Air quality is measured by World Health Organisation guidelines focused on small, inhalable particle matter, referred to as PM2.5.

The WHO target allows no more than three “high pollution” days a year where PM2.5 levels are above a certain level [25 micrograms per cubic metre].

Although air quality has improved since 2011, Mayor Lyn Patterson said, “the levels are still too high, and we would like to see these come down”.

“Last winter there were 40 high pollution days, up from 30 in 2018, but better than 45 in 2017,” Patterson said.

“If excessive smoke is coming out of your chimney after the fire has become established, then you have some improvements to make.

“Excessive smoke is a sign that wood is not burning completely, and that means less heat – and less value for the money spent on firewood.

“Smoke from wood burners is the biggest contributor to air pollution during winter.”

Poor air quality can aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions and is known to affect the heart and cardiovascular system.

“We know how important wood burning is for many people to keep their homes warm, but let’s all burn better and smarter and improve the air quality in Masterton,” Patterson said.

The Masterton District Council is encouraging everyone to understand how their habits at home can contribute to poor air quality.

A council spokesperson said it was important that wood burners were used correctly, and were burning dry, untreated wood to limit the amount of smoke produced.

It was also advisable to have chimneys cleaned before each winter.

“A fire requires oxygen to burn, and limiting the amount of oxygen by closing the air vent on a wood burner, or damper, will cause the fire to burn less efficiently, producing more smoke,” the spokesperson said.


  1. I live in Kaiapoi and the air here smells like a ashtray on bad days but there are not always a lot of smoking chimneys when you look around. I don’t know but maybe just looking for smoke is not the whole answer to monitoring this problem it’s the fumes put off as well often there is a chemical stink too.

  2. Unfortunately there are still people in town who believe it’s O.K. to burn plastic in their fires as well, which is all too obvious at times.

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