Posted by: Matthew | May 2, 2010

Neighbours need a right of veto on any burning off enshrined into law

Back in the dark old days of 1999 on a work trip to Melbourne, myself and 6 colleagues were out to dinner in suburban Melbourne. After the meal one of my colleagues was about to light up a cigarette (back when smoking hadn’t been banned in restaurants) and I stopped him and said “hey you haven’t asked us”. So he went around the group asking everybody if it was okay to smoke, and they all said “yeah ok” even though two of them had told me previously they found it annoying.  He got to me last, and I said “of course it is not okay”, and he called me a bully. Except I wasn’t the bully. I was sticking up to the bully. He was the bully trying to force his smoke onto us without asking.

This is the current situation I find myself in. No one has ever asked me if it is okay to burn off near me. All I get is the smoke. I am paying the cost, and the cost has been too high. So why can’t I be asked? It’s only polite and respectful to ask. Ramming smoke onto us, and up our nostrils, without even asking, is completely disrespectful.

So c’mon if you want to burn off ask all your neighbours. Kapiti Coast District Council when you go off issuing permits to burn in the open, why don’t you ask the neighbours if it is okay with them? They are going to cop the smoke, so they are definitely involved. (Yes they bloody well are going to cop the smoke, no matter how much you don’t understand the true nature of smoke) And if you put some clause about which way the wind is blowing, someone else is going to cop the smoke.

And what do you do when one of your neighbours says “no thanks, I don’t want to smell the smoke”? Then you must respect their wishes and not burn off. It is not like there aren’t other alternatives, like taking it to the landfill, or composting, or turning it into mulch.

So there we have it. Neighbours need a right of veto on any permit for burning in the open-air. At the moment they have no such thing. It needs to be enshrined into law, otherwise we’re just dealing with old-fashioned, stuck in the mud. ill-educates who don’t understand the problems they are causing (and yes I do mean the people in the compliance and monitoring team at the KCDC, who have been completely unreasonable with my simple requests).

And when lots of people use their veto and it becomes impractical to burn anything, then we by default get what the law should be anyway, a complete ban on burning off in the open.

And the right of veto should exist for the neighbours of domestic woodburners as well. Everyone within 500 metres of the flu should get a say, and if it affects people further away (like in the swales of a Raumati South dune) then they should get a say too. The right of veto is very much the just, right and proper thing to have.

A ban on burning off, and a ban on woodburners are morally very much like banning smoking in restaurants. In fact the moral case for banning burning off in the open air and wood burners is even stronger. With restaurants you could always take your business elsewhere or cook at home, but with woodsmoke your whole life can be ruined, or rendered unhappy in your own house. And that can affect your whole mental and physical well-being.

Not asking your neighbours if it is OK to burn is completely disrespectful.


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