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Plant Residue Management

Plant residues can be managed by burning and mulching/composting onsite or giving away or transferring to a facility that could mulch and compost. Due to aesthetic and health concerns public appears to negatively view any outdoor burning activities, particularly when there are residents nearby or burning undertaken in popular tourism areas or tourist routes.

Apart from public perception there are regulations that control burning activities in NZ. Burning is regulated by both regional and district/councils. District/city councils regulate burning for fire safety reasons while regional councils regulate burning to manage air quality.

Depending on the regional rule burning of plant residues may be a permitted activity for which consents are not required. Generally, under permitted activity rule there may be restrictions on the type of materials that can be burnt and any objectionable effects of the smoke. If so, anybody can object the smoke and lay a complaint with the regional council. If found non-compliant, the regional council could enforce the rule (e.g. issuing of an infringement notice).

Apart from complying with the regional rules, there may be burning permits required from the local district or city council. Generally there are burning restrictions from the local district/city councils during summer due to fire safety reasons. Obtaining a burning or fire permit from the local district/city council will only allow the activity under the district/city jurisdiction which still means you need to comply with the regional rule.

When managing air quality regional councils are concerned about high emission of smoke during autumn/winter period. This is because during cold and still periods smoke may linger for long periods causing the air shed to be polluted with particulates (referred to as smog), which can be a health hazard to those who live nearby.

For the above reasons burning of plant residues is not advisable, particularly during cold periods. On the other hand, while summer burning may not cause any smog, there may be restrictions from the district/city councils for fire safety reasons.

Under either circumstance burning of plant residues has become problematic hence other methods (e.g. mulching) should be explored to deal with disposing of the plant residues. Therefore the following points are noteworthy:

  • Mulch and compost prunings and other vegetative wastes; and

  • Avoid burning vegetative residues during autumn or winter which could cause nuisance to nearby residents or traffic. You may have a fire permit from the local district council to burn but you have to still comply with the regional councils’ outdoor burning rules.