Posted by: Matthew | April 9, 2010

Inadequate burn-off laws completely fail me

For the second night in a row it is a still, windless night and for the second night in a row there is smoke in the air and the walk from my car to house has seen my clothes stink of smoke. It is all from the burning off at somewhere nearby*. But there is some good news. That’s the last of it for now. It started at 7am on the 8th of April and it was still insufferable 24 hours later (and still noticeable in the air after 36). (Update: the fire burnt for 6 days without cessation) After 5 phone calls to the Greater Wellington Regional Council Pollution Hotline, which seemed to have fallen on completely deaf ears I called 111 and asked for the Fire Brigade. The fire brigade assessed the situation, and have revoked the permit to burn, and said they were going back this afternoon to extinguish the fires.I assume they have, but there is still smoke in the air, but thankfully not as overwhelming as yesterday.

So I want to know why the people at somewhere nearby* chose a windless cold morning to light their fires. The permit that the KCDC gave them came with conditions. One of the conditions states “The fire may only be lit when wind conditions allow and the fire must be extinguished if wind conditions deteriorate”. Well it was a still day, and the smoke went nowhere. This is a clear breach of that condition.

Another condition states “A fire should not cause a smoke, ash or odour nuisance which is objectionable beyond the boundary of the property”. I complained 5 times GWRC because of the smoke and odour nuisance. It should have been shut down after the first complaint. The owners of somewhere nearby* failed to comply with this part of their permit.

Another condition states “Maintain constant supervision of any outdoor fire” – well I went and had a closer look. The fires were not under supervision.

Let’s look at some of those photos. This is day 2 of the fire. See the huge ash pile. They are burning tonnes and tonnes of fallen pine trees. See how much it is smouldering. The smoke is going horizontal.

It was just one of two fires that were going for over 24 hours. The smoke remember was coming into my house. My right to enjoy my own property, my own house even, was being seriously curtailed by the burning off.

and they’ve got hundreds more tonnes of trees that they are going to try to burn.

I am so glad they have had their permit taken away from them, but the KCDC has obviously made a huge mistake in issuing the permit in the first place. I am going to try to object to any new permit being issued. If I am unsuccessful I am going to have to go to court and seek an injunction. My life and liberty cannot be enjoyed if they burn that.

The GWRC should really look at its procedures. When someone complains about nuisance smoke it is because the smoke is a nuisance. The rules of the permits that the KCDC issue clearly state (in the KCDC brochure – General Guide to Open Air Burning) that a fire must not cause smoke, ash or odour nuisance beyond the boundary of the property. So if someone complains about the nuisance smoke the GWRC has grounds to act. (Yes you do GWRC, don’t tell me otherwise) If someone complains then the permit should be instantly revoked, because they are operating outside the permit.

I don’t want to call 111 for a smoke complaint. The fire brigade should be for emergencies. Yesterday’s and today’s fires at somewhere nearby* were emergencies. GWRC take your role seriously. And don’t give me no piss-weak explanation that I am the only one to complain, so therefore can’t be taken seriously. My neighbours are idiots. They have their own firepits where they burn plastic, or their own burnoff piles (but the old farts next door probably suffered through the smoke pollution I did, maybe they even learnt something). Some people may not know they have a right to complain. They might not know they can complain to the GWRC pollution hotline. They may have dealt with the GWRC before and been annoyed by the lack of any help. I called the GWRC 5 times, and they did nothing. How piss poor is that?

Now here’s a question? Why does the KCDC give out permits for open-air burning when it is near impossible for anyone to stay within the rules about not causing a nuisance?

Thankyou to the Fire Service, which was probably the Te Horo Volunteer Brigade. Thankyou for taking me seriously. Thankyou for revoking the permit. Thanks for putting out the fires. To the KCDC and the GWRC you have let me down badly.

And what should my neighbours do with all that pine tree material if they can’t burn it? Well that’s not my problem. I don’t care. They have a responsibility to not smoke out their neighbours. If they don’t take that responsibility seriously, why the hell should we have to put up with them? Their behaviour was absolutely appalling.

*Apparently I’m not supposed to identify my neighbours as they find it threatening. So I get my house filled with smoke by these people, threatening my own existence, and I am supposed to be polite back. Once more the polluters are protected and their victims get no say.



  1. […] Residents suffer due to neighbour’s burning off UPDATE : 9th April. These fires were still smouldering over 24 hours from when they were first lit. There was still no wind to disperse the smoke. The immediate, and surrounding, areas are subjected to a huge pollution load. The suffering of the residents is continuing. The fires should not have been lit in the first place. Yet they are still burning. There has been a complete breakdown in the permit system and the pollution hotline system, and collectively the two councils have been unhelpful, even complicit, with the hugely polluting volume of smoke. If this hasn’t been a lesson in how not to manage burn-offs I don’t know what is. More thorough discussion on the breakdown of the systems will be given on this blog soon. Here is the link. […]

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