Clean Air Regulations Guide

Relevant Clean Air regulations and how they apply to you

Yes, you can put in a Clean Air Approved wood burner into your new or existing home, in MOST areas of New Zealand. There are a few exceptions, such as Central Christchurch, but outside of this most areas will have a range of suitable approved wood burners that will be able to be installed.

There are currently several legislative levels of Clean Air approvals, which relate to various geographical areas within New Zealand. It is best to be aware of not only the current requirements, but possible future changes. In some areas, these requirements may affect the ability to use certain fires, maybe not now, but also in the future.

We tend to recommend only Clean Air Approved wood burners, to ensure your long term ability to use your fire place. Our recommendation is to AVOID, where possible, all fires labelled as “RURAL” or “MULTI-FUEL”, as these may not be suitable in many areas, given current laws in some districts, plus upcoming and potential law changes in the near future. Plus we would not suggest installing a second hand fire, especially if it does not meet the NES standards from 2005 onwards.

Current Standards for Wood Fires 

NES Standards

National Environmental Standards set by the Ministry for the Environment, September 2005. All new wood fires must meet a minimum efficiency level of 65%, plus include emissions of less than 1.5gm of carbon per kg of burnt dry wood. This covers the whole country as the MINIMUM level of compliance - some districts have implemented more stringent levels of compliance - see below.

ECAN Standards 

Environment Canterbury and Nelson Regional Council emissions standards. Same as above, although with stricter emissions levels of less than 1.0gm/kg. This covers the entire ECAN area with the exception of Christchurch City.

ORC Air Shed 1 Standards 

Otago Regional Council Air Shed 1 emissions standards are the same efficiency level as above, with different emission levels of no more than 0.7gm/kg.

Ultra Low Emissions Burner (ULEB)

An ultra-low emissions wood burner is a burner that under strict real-life operating conditions can meet an emissions and efficiency standard of 38 milligrams per megajoule or emits less than 0.3 grams of total suspended particulate per kilogram of fuel burned and has a thermal efficiency of 65% or greater. Ultra-low emission wood burners can be installed and used anywhere in Canterbury EXCEPT the restricted area of Christchurch. Check with current council regulations as these do change frequently.

Expected law changes for all fire types

It is currently expected that by circa 2015-2018, depending on your location in New Zealand, the implementation of the proposed PM10 air quality standards will leave many district councils with no other option than to enforce an outright ban on the use of "open" fires in the home or workplace throughout New Zealand. This has already happened in many areas of New Zealand. It is also expected that all fire types will be expected to meet the new Clean Air requirements which were set in 2005. Many areas of New Zealand have already adopted the upcoming Clean Air quality standards and are are implementing, in some cases, a retrospective phase-out of non-compliant Wood Fires. This does not mean there is a wood-fire ban, it means the "non-clean air approved" and "non-consented" wood-fires, plus "open fires" will most likely be phased out progressively through the whole country.

What does this mean for you?

Your current open fire place will, in the short to medium term, be phased out and not be able to be used, either now, or in the future depending on where you live in New Zealand. An open fire is the old traditional brick or masonry style fire place, with a concrete/brick/masonry chimney, with no insert style fire enclosure or front door.

Either in the short to medium term your existing wood fire, permitted or not, if it does not meet the 2005 NES standards will have a limited life and will have to be phased out at some point and then can only be replaced by a fire that meets at least the NES standards, or stricter levels for other regions (ECAN, ORC, ULEB).

This legislation may be retrospective, and may apply to currently installed fires (permitted or not) to meet the newer Clean Air levels by a given period of time. As these fires come up for replacement they will only be able to be replaced by NES approved or cleaner fires, depending on your location in New Zealand.

Some councils are adopting the new “point of sale rule” where it is now an assigned responsibility of anyone selling a house to ensure that any older non-compliant Wood Fire is replaced by a Clean Air approved Wood Fire before selling a house so that unsuspecting buyers are not caught out.

Some districts have different council regulations which relate to area quotas and so on, so we recommend checking with your local council before installing if you are unsure.

As a result of this we would recommend the following:

1. Be wary of purchasing a wood fire that does not meet current NES Clean Air standards. Rural, multi-fuel or second-hand wood fires that don’t meet these standards cannot be installed in many areas of New Zealand. Even if it is currently permissible under current council regulations to install a rural wood fire on a property of two hectares or more, we would suggest it is better in the long term to stick with Clean Air approved wood fires only. We strongly recommend not buying a second hand wood fire.

2. If you have an open fire place and brick chimney you can buy an approved Insert Wood Fire, such as the Masport LE4000, which (in most cases) can be inserted into your existing masonry fire place, with the flue kit going up the existing chimney.

3. If you are intending to purchasing and install a new Wood Fire, only buy a Wood Fire which has, at the very least, the NES and ECAN standards approval. Contact us to get more details on the below toll free number.

4. Contact the NZ Home Heating Association or your local council if you require more detailed regulations in your area. 

5. Only use NZHHA registered wood-fire installers, that are registered for producer statements, who may do your council consent process for you. At Wright's, under our "Wrightcare Installation Service" we use fully registered installers who will take care of all council consents and compliance registration.

For any other enquiries or information, we encourage you to contact us at or phone 0800 806 608