Wood Smoke Emissions

Using wood heaters correctly

The use of wood heaters can generate excessive smoke having a negative impact on neighbours and air quality if not correctly installed and operated. Wood smoke contains numerous pollutants such as dioxins and volatile organic compounds. Particles in smoke can cause or exacerbate respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis.

The NSW EPA has developed several education resources to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of wood smoke pollution and provide practical tips for wood heater owners to better operate their wood heaters. You can view that here.

Here are the EPA's top tips for better wood heater operation:
  • Always burn small logs of aged, dry hardwood – unseasoned wood has more moisture and is more likely to smoke.
  • Store firewood under cover in a dry ventilated area; freshly cut wood needs to be stored for 8–12 months.
  • Never burn rubbish, driftwood or treated or painted wood. These pollute the air and can be poisonous.
  • When lighting a cold heater use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  • Stack wood loosely in the firebox so air can circulate – don't cram the firebox full.
  • Turn off the warm air circulation fan when lighting up and when refuelling.
  • Keep the flame lively and bright; your fire should only smoke for a few minutes when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15–20 minutes after reloading.
  • Don't let your heater smoulder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  • Check your chimney regularly – if there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
  • Clean the chimney every year, to prevent creosote build-up.

How to deal with air pollution in your neighbourhood from backyard burning and wood heaters

Air pollution such as smoke and odours can be very annoying and have a negative impact on neighbours. However, you can often stop air pollution that disturbs you without involving Council or another government agency.

Talk to your neighbours

The first thing you should do is talk to your neighbours about any air pollution issues that are affecting you. Your neighbours may not have known, and they may help solve the problem quickly and easily. The NSW EPA website contains some education material that can facilitate this discussion. You can view that here.

Community Justice Centres

If talking to your neighbours doesn't solve the issue, you can go the Community Justice Centre. Community Justice Centres provide quality mediation and conflict management services in NSW. The service is free, confidential, impartial, accessible and voluntary.

The Northern Community Justice Centre can be contacted on 1800 990 777 or email cjc_northern@agd.nsw.gov.au.

How Council can help

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) provides for the issuing of smoke abatement notices by Council. An authorised officer of Council may issue a smoke abatement notice if it appears to the authorised officer that excessive smoke is being, or has been emitted from a chimney on or in residential premises. The notice must be issued within 7 days of the excessive smoke being emitted (s 135B(1) of the POEO Act).

Section 135A of the POEO Act defines 'chimney', 'excessive smoke' and 'residential premises' in relation to the provisions relating to smoke abatement notices as follows:
  • chimney means a chimney, flue, pipe or other similar means of conveying smoke emitted inside residential premises to the outside.
  • excessive smoke means the emission of a visible plume of smoke from a chimney for a continuous period of not less than 10 minutes, including a period of not less than 30 seconds when the plume extends at least 10 metres from the point at which the smoke is emitted from the chimney.
  • residential premises means premises used wholly or partly as a residence. A smoke abatement notice cannot be issued for a chimney that is in or on an incinerator or is used only in relation to smoke originating from outside a residence (s 135B(4)) as these matters are regulated under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2021.
Any regulatory action undertaken by Council will be guided by Councils Enforcement Policy and associated guidelines. Air pollution complaints may result in one or all of these steps, depending on the case:
  • An investigation of the air pollution complaint to determine the legitimacy of the complaint.
  • The undertaking of targeted education, or
  • The issuing of a formal warning/notice/order.

To make an air pollution complaint:

Phone Council on (02) 6625 0500 or email council@lismore.nsw.gov.au.
Air Pollution can also be reported to the NSW EPA Pollution Line on 131 555