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Our Environment: Issue 12 - Spring 1997:

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

People Have Their Say On Smog

“Christchurch is our living room - let's not fill it with smoke."

If the Canterbury Regional Council gets its way, that message won't disappear with the last of the winter frosts. The Council is getting serious about smog. This month it asked the people of Christchurch to do the same thing.

A major public consultation exercise has been launched to gauge people's opinions on the issue. The Council thinks air pollution is important - now it wants to know whether Christchurch residents agree.

Fliers, brochures and a technical document explaining the causes of the problem, and options for fixing it, have been circulated. A 30 September deadline has been set for responses.

Air team project leader, Marion Yoder, says there is still some confusion about what the Council is trying to do. "What we are tackling is the City's worst air pollution problem - the suspended particulate or 'PM10' that is released when wood and coal are burned."

Ms Yoder says, while there are other contaminants in Christchurch's air, PM10 has the greatest effect on people's health. The tiny, invisible particles - about 50th of the size of a full-stop- are easily inhaled. They stick in people's lungs, causing respiratory and other problems. According to local and international research, some 29 people a year could be dying sooner than they should in Christchurch, simply because of the City's elevated levels of PM10.

“Another 80,000 'people days' are lost every year because of the poor health effects associated with suspended particulates," Ms Yoder says.

Research has proven that 90 per cent of the suspended particulates is coming from wood and coal burned on open fires and in burners. Six per cent come from industry and another four percent from transport.

“People are quick to point at smelly, exhaust fume-belching cars, and say they're the problem," Ms Yoder says. "We're saying cars are not the main problem. They do emit smoke, but they don't put out the same amount of harmful PM10 that your home fire does. Other air pollutants could be tackled in the future. Right now, the Council wants to get rid of the worst problem.

Several options for achieving that have been put to the community. Ms Yoder says the hard truth is that banning open fires and phasing out older wood burners is the only way to get PM10 concentrations down. "For the sake of people's health, this just has to happen."

She emphasises that no final decisions have been made by the Council. All that has been agreed are that eleven options should be proposed for community consultation. "Now it's the community's turn to share its views."

Regional Council air team staff are available to speak about the air pollution problem with interested groups and organisations. Appointments can be made with Marion at the Council, by phoning 365-3828.

Kim Knight
CRC Communications Officer

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