17 April 2023

Probing the polls: No love for wood-heater ban plans and where do you belong in Canberra?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Crowds at lake

Crowds celebrate at the inauguration of Lake Burley Griffin in 1964. Photo: National Archives of Australia.

Winter is drawing in, so is now the time to ban wood heaters from the suburbs?

A recent report to the Government is suggesting it’s time for them to go on the basis of health concerns, especially in Tuggeranong. Readers, however, were not convinced.

One wrote: “We have solar panels, reverse cycle, and a wood heater in our suburban home. Our wood heater is not going anywhere. We burn only seasoned wood and it’s extremely efficient. No heat warms your bones like a nice warm fire, and it almost makes Canberra’s winters enjoyable! The people who complain about wood heater smoke live near people who burn green timber and rubbish etc, hence the bellowing smoke!”

And from another, perhaps with tongue in cheek: “Why worry about the asthmatics and those with compromised respiratory systems really? They are only second-class citizens as far as the “woodchuck” mob go. A background pm 2.5 level of around 20 cannot even be detected by the average nostril, so not sure why they are saying there is no safe level. Not as if we are discussing asbestos.”

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

In last week’s poll, we asked Do we need to ban wood heaters to stop woodsmoke pollution? A total of 1578 readers participated.

Your options were to vote No, improve the heaters, don’t ban wood fires. This attracted 66 per cent of the total, or 1036 votes.

Alternatively, you could vote Yes, nobody’s health is worth risking when there are alternatives. This gained 34 per cent of the total, or 542 votes.

This week we’re wondering whether you are a born and bred northsider or southsider. It’s one of the great Canberra questions along with whether you dare to turn your heater on before Anzac Day and who has the best chips (Kingsley’s, according to most of you).

But it wasn’t always this way.

Before the lake, there was the Molonglo River and plenty of doubt about whether a big stretch of water was a good idea (much of the opposition came from senior bureaucrats who enjoyed the old Royal Canberra golf course, now far beneath the waters).

There were also questions about the cost and grandiosity of the design, but the lake is here to stay thanks to Sir Robert Menzies.

READ ALSO Northside, southside? Lake Burley Griffin is the heart of the city

One reader said: “Back in the ’40s when I was a kid, the north-south thing was a social divide rather than geographical. The bus drivers and garbos lived in Ainslie and the embassies and rich people lived in Red Hill and Forrest. North had the high school and south had Girls and Boys Grammar Schools. It was a friendly divide, much like Sydney/Melbourne, Hobart/Launceston. It was in place long before the lake.”

John Dow wrote: “I’ll bet most people think the lake was designed from the beginning as something nice for the population, Silly people, innocent souls. Burley Griffin (or probably Marion) realised from the beginning that the Molonglo River was a flood plain, which would have threatened any development in its riverbed.

“Thus the idea of creating the lake was a no-brainer, and we all benefit, but don’t be fooled into thinking it was purely to give us a nice stretch of water in the middle of the city.”

Our question this week is:

Are you a northsider or a southsider?

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Let’s be clear, burning wood isn’t safe no matter the wood just like standing next to a smoker which is why smoking is banned in most places. I’m breathing in smoke all year around believe it or not in which I can’t keep out of my own home coming from a Woodfire Heater.
I’ve contacted my local council who referred me to the EPA who are just as useless as the council. It seems to be not their problem but it will be I assure you
Firefighters are compensated for breathing in smoke when when putting out fires getting sick very sick , the only difference is I don’t put out fire but breathe the same smoke. My lungs state that I have smoked all my life but haven’t smoked a single cigarette in my life.
No compensation claim will pay for your health and quality of life.

@Sergio R
Let’s be clear – you’ve made your point over and over again

Ive been both north and south, i think the old money is in the south, growth is in the north, but canberra doesnt have a north south divide like London does…..

Gregg Heldon7:42 am 18 Apr 23

Apart from two years living in North Lyneham and five month in Flynn, I have always live Southside/Queanbeyan in Canberra. We moved to Curtin in Nov 1975.
The most important question now, for me is, do I still belong here? Canberra has become more snobbery and clique-y than it’s ever been and less welcoming. I feel more isolated and lonely than I ever have here.
It’s a shame.

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