Wood smoke initiatives a breath of fresh air

Armidale Dumaresq Council has received a $50,000 grant from the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSWEPA) to improve local air quality this winter.

The money will be used for community education, local enforcement programs and rebates to replace older wood heaters.

One of the goals in the Armidale Dumaresq Community Strategic Plan is to reduce wood smoke pollution in Armidale’s urban area in order to meet national fine particle (PM2.5) air quality standards by 2020.

Deputy Mayor and Chair of Armidale Dumaresq’s Environmental Sustainability Committee Herman Beyersdorf said the funding was a terrific boost to Council’s efforts to improve winter air quality.

“It’s important we address this issue. We know that smoke from wood fires results in poor air quality in winter, and we know this pollution can adversely affect people’s health.”

The NSW Government has provided a total of $1,125,000 for the Wood Smoke Reduction Program 2013, with Armidale one of 17 Local Government Areas receiving funding.

Representatives from all the councils funded by the program met in Sydney in April to receive training from the NSWEPA and to discuss successes and difficulties in addressing air quality issues in their area.

“This is a terrific opportunity for networking and building on the success of others working to solve this complex problem,” Councillor Beyersdorf said.

The Wood Smoke Reduction Program supports councils to make local decisions to reduce wood smoke including:
  • offering cash incentives to owners of old, pollluting wood heaters and fireplaces to shift to cleaner alternatives
  • carrying out community education about the health effects of wood smoke and the benefits of correct wood heater operation; and
  • conducting smoky chimney surveys with local enforcement.

NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker said there had been strong competition for the funding.

“We have tried to give priority to councils that showed they have a significant local wood smoke problem and a firm desire to do something about it.”