Rights: The University of Waikato Published 18 June 2008 Download

Associate Professor Simon Kingham, from the University of Canterbury, talks about Christchurch’s very high air pollution levels in winter, mainly because people burn wood to keep their homes warm. The level of air pollution in Christchurch is by no means the worst in the world, but has been linked to ill health and increases in death related to respiratory illnesses.


I suppose Christchurch – for the size of city and for the fact that it doesn't have huge levels of traffic – it has worse air pollution than it should have. It’s not the worst in the world – there is some cities, particularly in industrialised countries like China, some terrible air pollution. Big cities like Los Angeles has very bad air pollution, London –big cities tend to have very bad air quality. So the case of London… in London in the 1950s, they had major smog episodes, thousands of people died, and they put in place clean air laws that mean you can't put wood in homes for heating. I think there is a lot of historical and cultural reasons, as well, why air pollution say in Christchurch and New Zealand is as it is. I mean, there is this idea that you go out and you kind of collect wood, you burn it, and that is what you do, and that is fine, but we've also got to have an acceptance that it’s not actually probably very good for people's health, burning wood and polluting the environment, and the government is now doing something about it. It might be taking its time a bit, but it’s on the right track. But what is interesting is a number of countries in some parts of the world are actually considering it as a sustainable form of fuel. So parts of Scandinavia are actually saying maybe we should use wood burning as a sustainable form of heating, because you don't need oil or electricity to produce it. And so people are actually looking to some extent at Christchurch's research to say, well what are the health effects of using wood burning.

Sue Tyler
Larry McCombs