ORC ups funding to tackle small town air pollution

The Otago Regional Council has increased its commitment to tackling poor air quality in smog-prone towns with a $5million project over 10 years.

It decided at a committee meeting yesterday to increase resources towards the task from the long-term plan budget of $3.37million.

A report to council said overall the programme could cost $7.95million, depending on how much it decided to spend on subsidising residents transitioning to clean heating.

This means the council expects to meet its clean air objectives in 2028-29.

Previously, it would have not achieved them before 2036.

The programme focuses on towns prone to air pollution such as Alexandra, Arrowtown, Clyde and Cromwell.

Council senior policy analyst Sylvie Leduc said the recommendation to increase efforts came from the council feeling it needed to "do more" for air quality in the region.

The programme would include financial subsidy into cleaner heating options, targeted education and compliance.

The council would start a staged approach, using Arrowtown as a pilot starting next year.

It would "strengthen" its Clean Heat Clean Air fund with new funding to allow a faster transition to low-impact heating.

It would try to use partnerships to lower costs, as well as trial and keep a "watching brief" over new technologies relating to air quality.

Cr Michael Deaker said he was "really impressed" with the enthusiasm in the Arrowtown community for air projects.

Cr Bryan Scott said raising funds for the project was "a bit of a no-brainer really".

Cr Michael Laws questioned whether the cleaner options provided the same heat as other burners.

"I think that's going to be fundamental."

Cr Sam Neill said his reservation stemmed from the added cost.

"We've already budgeted for that. It's become habitual for our council to not worry about budgets and just keep on spending and that really worries me."

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