Emitting excessive wood smoke could see residents fined $1590

Smoke haze over Launceston in May. Picture: Neil Richardson
Smoke haze over Launceston in May. Picture: Neil Richardson

There is a distinct smell in the air at this time of year: smoke. 

As Northern Tasmanians crank up their wood-fire heaters, and planned burns are conducted across the country, smoke haze in the mornings and evenings becomes more apparent. 

EPA Tasmania director, environment protection authority Wes Ford said smoke levels around Launceston in late April to early May were typically elevated. 

“On any given day at this time of year the measured and perceived smoke levels depend on the meteorological conditions,” Mr Ford said. 

“Calm, cold weather, especially overnight, inhibits dispersion and can lead to increased smoke concentrations.”

Smoke levels in Launceston in late April to early May this year are similar to those at the same time last year, once meteorology is taken into account. 

But EPA Tasmania air stations have recorded increased smoke levels on calm nights, due to planned burns and wood heater use, at Hadspen, Longford and Perth.  

The Burn Brighter this Winter program was initiated by EPA Tasmania to help combat the increase in domestic wood smoke emissions caused by wood heaters in the winter months. 

“Burn Brighter this Winter is a community awareness campaign run annually by EPA Tasmania to assist local government in the regulation and management of sources of domestic wood smoke,” Mr Ford said. 

Under updated state pollution control laws, Tasmanians could be slapped with a $1590 fine if they emit smoke that is visible for more than 10 minutes. 

The law is enforced by councils and applies to a range of heaters, fireplaces, barbecues, hot water heating appliances and cooking appliances. 

City of Launceston general manager Michael Stretton said the council takes an educational approach to managing wood smoke complaints. 

"Where we can identify individual properties that are the subject of complaints, we discuss the issue with the owners and provide some educational material on efficient use of wood heaters,” he said. 

“In some circumstances, it has been necessary to issue caution notices to address some complaints.”

In the past four years the City of Launceston received 131 wood-smoke related complaints, distributed 70 information brochures and issued 25 written warnings. 

People have 21 days after being served with a written warning to reduce their smoke emission. Failure to comply would result in $1590 fine. 

“Generally when residents become aware their woodheater is causing problems for other people, they do their best to rectify the matter,” Mr Stretton said. 

No fines for excessive smoke emission have been issued by the City of Launceston in the past four years.