Page 1856 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022

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People with asthma are among those most at risk from feeling unwell from breathing wood heater smoke, which is also harmful for pregnant people, infants and young children, the elderly and people with other chronic heart and lung conditions.

A survey from Asthma Australia found that 14 per cent of people in the ACT use a wood fire heater as their main source of heating. I guess this is unsurprising, given that a number of homes in the ACT were built in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, when some of the other forms of heating were far less popular.

We know that the ACT government is doing some work to reduce the number of wood fire heaters operating in Canberra. We have the Wood Heater Replacement Program, which allows residents to apply for a rebate for replacing a wood heater with a more efficient electronic heating system. The Burn Right Tonight campaign also assists residents to understand how best to use their wood heaters and minimise their individual smoke pollution. I note that the 2022 air quality report is due to be published on 20 June this year. I am sure that, like me, other members are eager to read through it to understand the recent air quality in the ACT.

What I hear from some of my residents in Tuggeranong is that they have gone to the extent of installing their own air-monitoring systems. There is one which is a community air-monitoring system, which seems to be quite popular. It is composed of sensors that are installed and it uses a fan to draw air past a laser, causing reflections from the particles in the air. These reflections are used to count particles in six sizes, between 0.3 and 10 micrometres in diameter. The information is uploaded to a map so that you can see for your suburb or your area what the average particulate matter count is. For some reason, it seems to be particularly bad in Chisholm, amongst the suburbs in Tuggeranong.

Mr Davis’s motion calls on the government to trial a program to assist low income households to replace wood heaters through an easy and accessible application process. It calls on them to explore how this program could come at no upfront cost to the household, unlike the current rebate. Finally, it calls on the government to promote this and existing programs to applicable households and report back to the Assembly prior to the release of the next action plan for 2023-25.

On this side of the chamber we believe in individual choice and individual responsibility, and we do not want to unnecessarily intervene or interfere in Canberrans’ lives and homes. But there also comes a time when the government chooses to step in for the greater good. In some cases, environmental and health impacts from wood fire heaters may trigger that response. But we must recognise that some households choose to use wood heaters to heat their homes, and why that might be the case. For example—and this is addressed in Mr Davis’s suggestions—they may not be able to afford to replace their wood heater. Some people might simply prefer it.

Mr Davis’s motion aims to establish a replacement program for those who want to remove their wood heater but may not be able to afford the upfront costs and/or then wait for a potential rebate to come through. When we are in an environment where

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