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4 Wood burner design standards

The regulations state that after 1 September 2005 regional councils and unitary authorities must enforce the wood burner design standards.

4.1 Key regulatory issues

When reviewing implementation of the wood burner design standards it is important to note
the following.

The regulations, promulgated under the Resource Management Act 1991, require that all wood burners installed in urban areas meet design standards for emissions and efficiency. Regional councils are responsible for enforcing these design standards. The Building Code, promulgated under the Building Act 2004, requires that all wood burner installations meet fire safety standards. Territorial authorities are responsible for enforcing these safety standards, and they do this through the provision of a building consent.

In addition, five councils have wood burner design standards for emissions and efficiency in their regional plans. These councils are Auckland Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council and Otago Regional Council. These design standards may be more stringent than the regulations.

There is no link between the regulations, regional plans and the Building Code. This means that a territorial authority could legally give building consent for a burner that is illegal under the regulations or a regional plan. In other words, the wood burner may be installed but it may not be used. In practice, and based on advice from the Ministry, most territorial authorities in New Zealand refuse consent for wood burners that are not authorised. For unitary authorities, who assume the duties of both a territorial authority and a regional council, it is straightforward to ensure that wood burner installations meet all relevant design and safety standards.

4.2 Enforcement

No councils have undertaken any enforcement action in relation to the wood burner standards. Two councils (one regional, one unitary) further queried who was responsible for enforcing the wood burner design standard. Environment Canterbury and Nelson City Council partnered the Ministry in the national performance review of wood burners.4

4.3 Review of implementation

Unitary authorities are confident that they are successfully implementing the wood burner design standards in their regions (Gisborne, Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman). As noted above, implementation of the wood burner design standards is a relatively straightforward matter for unitary authorities. However, implementation of the wood burner design standards by

regional councils is largely not happening. Councils have identified structural impediments to implementation, such as:

  • no link between the regulations, regional plans and the Building Code

  • no power to enter private homes

  • no power to require territorial authorities to provide information on wood burner consents.

In spite of this, it is striking that the majority of regional councils have not even spoken to territorial authorities in their regions about the wood burner design standards.5 Specifically, few, if any, councils had requested information on the number and type of solid-fuel burners installed each year. This information is essential for effective air quality management in airsheds subject to pollution from home heating.

What could the Ministry for the Environment do?

The Ministry has provided extensive support for implementation through the provision of a national list of authorised burners (as notified by Environment Canterbury and Nelson City Council) and by undertaking a national review of performance of wood burners (in partnership with Environment Canterbury and Nelson City Council). There are clear advantages to the Ministry taking on this leadership role in that, as a single national agency, it is significantly more efficient for the Ministry to undertake a performance review than 16 different councils.

There was strong support from councils for the Ministry’s national performance review of wood burners, with requests for this to be repeated and/or extended. Councils were further supportive of the Ministry’s national authorised list of wood burners. Environment Canterbury recommended the establishment of a national authorisation process.6 This could be administered by either the Ministry or an independent agency, and could be fully cost recoverable. This option has historically been supported by the New Zealand Home Heating Association.

A number of councils recommended the Ministry link the regulations to the Building Code. This is not a legally viable option.

Effectiveness of the wood burner design standards

Nearly all councils viewed the design standards for wood burners as effective. However, the majority of councils did not think the regulations go far enough. This is because the design standards only apply to wood burners and do not affect disproportionate polluters such as open fires, coal burners and multi-fuel burners.

The Ministry regularly fields requests for advice about implementation (of the wood burner design standards) from a number of territorial authorities. This indicates that some territorial authorities are actively implementing the wood burner design standards, but there is still no clear national picture. Most importantly, there is a lack of regional data on wood burner installations due to a lack of communication between regional councils and territorial authorities. As a result, the Ministry is not sure of the effectiveness of the wood burner design standards.


5  It is noted that Environment Canterbury has been working with territorial authorities in the Canterbury region to implement the wood burner design standard.

6  A draft national authorisation manual has already been prepared by the Ministry following the national performance review of wood burners. The Ministry is currently liaising with the manufacturing industry on this draft document.