Media release

Pollution Hotline place to report environmental pollution incidents

Tuesday 4 July 2017

The Otago Regional Council is reminding people to use its Pollution Hotline (ph 0800 800 033) to report environmental issues such as smoke from burn-offs, rather than posting on social media.

The reminder, from ORC director environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean, follows recent complaints about smoke and ash accumulating in the Lake Hawea area.

Mr MacLean said while he was aware of local concern about the source of the smoke having supposedly come from a fire at a subdivision in the area, several fires had been burning in the area at the same time, making it next to impossible to attribute the nuisance smoke to any single fire.

Seven complaints relating to the subdivision’s fire had been logged with the Pollution Hotline, and ORC environmental services staff followed up with site visits on at least three occasions. There were no site visits during the weekend because no complaints were logged with the Pollution Hotline, although people were actively commenting about the nuisance smoke on social media.

“No breaches of the Otago Air Plan were detected at the time of those visits,” Mr MacLean said.

“While there were some earlier reports of an ‘ashy’ black substance settling on vehicles in the Hawea area, this was in the days leading up to the subdivision fire being lit.”

“Contrary to what some people have suggested, no prohibited items were being burnt at the site when we inspected it. We are only able to act where there is actual evidence of an Air Plan breach occurring,” Mr MacLean said.

“If people are concerned about an environmental pollution issue, they need to call us through the Pollution Hotline - not simply make comments on Facebook.

“We will continue to monitor the situation in Lake Hawea while the fire burns, and, if people, at any time, day or night, feel that a Pollution Officer needs to attend, they should call the hotline immediately. It is staffed 24/7 and that means that if we receive a complaint, we can respond swiftly -– but we can’t do that if people just talk about it on Facebook.’’

Mr MacLean clarified apparent confusion about which agency issues permits for rural fires in Otago.

“ORC has statutory powers to enforce breaches of the Air Plan in our region, but the responsibility for issuing permits and monitoring fire risks lies with Fire Emergency New Zealand (”

There is currently an open fire season in the Lakes area of the Otago rural fire area, with a moderate fire danger.