31 March 2023

Probing the polls: cheap chips and plans to ban your wood heater

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Smoke from woodfire heaters has been found to linger for longer in the Tuggeranong valley. Photo: Clean Air Canberra.

Smoke from woodfire heaters has been found to linger for longer in the Tuggeranong valley. Photo: Clean Air Canberra.

Bruce Stadium is cold and old, but it seems that not even cheaper pies and chips will lure Canberrans back to watching the footy live, according to our latest poll.

The government has dropped food prices all round by $1 with some fanfare, but readers were more convinced about staying home in front of the widescreen TV, with a beer or a takeaway pizza close at hand.

We asked Will cheaper food lure you back to live footy? 658 readers voted.

Your choices to vote were No, I’ll watch from the comfort of my sofa, thanks. This was a clear winner with 80 per cent of the total, or 525 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, that makes it much easier to take the family. This attracted just 20 per cent of the total, or 133 votes.

This week we’re wondering how you feel about the latest moves to get rid of wood heaters across Canberra. There have been concerns for some years, particularly in the Tuggeranong Valley, where the lay of the land means that smoke lingers for much longer, causing problems for people with asthma.

Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Sophie Lewis says there is an “urgent need” to build on the Bushfire Smoke and Air Quality Strategy to protect Canberrans from poor air quality caused by wood heater smoke.

Commissioner Lewis said wood heater smoke was associated with adverse respiratory and cardiovascular outcomes, with Canberrans largely unable to protect themselves from the impacts.

The report also suggests a range of measures, including establishing a register of wood heaters, mandating the removal of wood heaters before a property can be sold and delivering clear health messages about the risks associated with wood heater usage.

READ ALSO Ban all new wood heater installations and replace the rest to improve Canberra air quality: report

The message didn’t go down well with some readers, who argued that the quality of the heater and wood makes a significant difference to the pollution impact.

“Will these bureaucratic microbes stop banning and taxing our behaviour? I have a wood heater which burns clean dry wood and I don’t let it smoulder over night. It warms our house, dries the washing and makes the energy bills less crippling. Neighbours don’t even notice it. Keep your damn hands off it,” wrote Philip.

But Amanda Day wrote: “Wood fire heaters are terrible for health and the environment. They are one of the least efficient and most polluting ways to heat your home. Most of Canberra was horrified and ran out and bought masks when the bushfire impacted air quality, yet some people need to put up with thick smoke all winter from their neighbours’ wood heater. I ended up selling my home and moving to get away from my neighbour’s smoke.”

A program to replace outdated wood heaters has been running for several years but has had little uptake – only 36 have been replaced.

Our question this week is:

Do we need to ban wood heaters to stop woodsmoke pollution?

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billyates19557:57 am 28 Apr 23

This is the time of the year when my family and I, (and the whole community) wake up to the smell of the wood fuelled heaters. I feel sorry for my daughter and the countless other people who suffer from this silent, but deadly menace that destroys their quality of life without the fire owners ever knowing, or, it seems, caring.

“Let the eat cake”.
This is what social media would consider ‘tone-deaf’. With the increasing price of electricity, the cost of living increases, and wage stagnation (not to mention new and increasing ACT rates and taxes at every turn), those of us who try to responsibly use wood fires can’t afford to heat our homes any other way, nor the expense of replacing a perfectly good renewable source of heat.
But … in the ACT we must control the people and everything they do and say (and think if possible)! If it moves, tax it; if it still moves, ban it (actually, it might be the other way around?!).
(Oh, and my spouse suffers asthma, and interestingly the cold is what triggers it more than anything else, and that’s what the nay-sayers are trying to condemn us to).
And what about those industries and retailers whose business, and livelihood, including that of their staff, is dependent on this? Have they been considered?

Wood heaters stink and are a vestige of pre historic man

Burning wood for heat’s ok when population density is low.

Oxygen-starved wood heaters in Canberra emit noxious NOx’s, which are extremely bad for mammalian mucus membranes (nose, throat and lung linings). Said NOx’s are often trapped by thermal inversions in the valleys, particularly, but not only Tuggeranong.

On some mornings Tuggeranong’s air quality is worse than LA’s! True story!

Capital Retro12:00 pm 04 Apr 23

And where does LA’s problem come from? Not wood heaters.

Everything noxious is trapped by thermal inversions in the Canberra area, not just home fore wood-smoke.

“And where does LA’s problem come from? Not wood heaters.”

ICE vehicles, fossil fuel power plants and heavy industries.

Good call Capital Retro, we should aim to move away from these things as major sources of pollution.

Although in Tuggeranong, wood fires are clearly also a major

steven gardiner11:48 am 02 Apr 23

So man has burnt wood for thousands of years, also most electricity is still generated by coal.gas ironic eh

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