Making the move to cleaner home heating will become easier for Invercargill residents from today, with the start of the Clean Air Loans Invercargill Scheme.
The low interest loans scheme is being launched at a ceremony at the Invercargill Fire Station at 11am on Friday, 11 March.
Loans will be available to homeowners within the Invercargill airshed who want to upgrade to approved burners or heat pumps and/or improve their insulation.
The scheme is jointly funded by Environment Southland and the Invercargill City Council, which have allocated $500,000 each per year for the next three years.
The Southland Regional Air Plan decisions were released last October, meaning non-compliant burners and open fires will be phased out over the next 18 years. This means many people in the Invercargill and Gore airshed will be required to upgrade their heating and the scheme is designed to assist.
Environment Southland chairman Ali Timms said in developing the Air Plan, the Regional Council had worked hard to achieve a balance between warm homes and improving air quality.
“We all want to breathe clean air, but we understand that making the necessary changes to home heating isn’t easy.
“This low interest loan scheme will help people make the change to cleaner heating and, as a community, we will all benefit from the cleaner air.”
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said that City Councillors were concerned about the potential impact of the clean air rules on some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, especially the elderly and others who rely on non-approved heating sources for warmth, for example, open fires.
The Council had agreed to fund the Clean Air Loans Scheme and also to allow low interest loans to be charged to individual ratepayers because, while air quality was important, it was vital people should not suffer during Invercargill’s cold winters.
Awarua Synergy will administer the scheme as service providers for the Southland Warm Homes Trust.
Awarua Synergy manager Sumaria Beaton said anybody who lives within the Invercargill airshed and has a non-compliant burner or open fire in their main living room can apply if they are an Invercargill City Council ratepayer and don’t have any rates in arrears. They can borrow up to $5,000, which will be paid back over a five-year period at a 3.95% interest rate.
As part of the application process, the team from Awarua Synergy will work with the homeowner to establish the most efficient and effective form of clean heating for their home.
“It’s important that people are guided to get the best heating for their homes. Every house and every family’s needs and lifestyles are different and we need to find a heat source that will give them the best result,” she said.
Having a clean form of heating is one of the most important ways people can contribute to improving air quality, but they can also help by burning only dry wood and keeping their burner well maintained.
A clean chimney will not only reduce the smoke going into the air, it is also essential from a safety perspective according to the New Zealand Fire Service.