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Wood Smoke Specialists Meet in Deloraine

Air specialists from around Australia and New Zealand will gather in Deloraine today, at the start of a three day wood smoke workshop, to discuss management of the environmental and health effects of smoke caused by wood heaters, planned burns and bushfires.

Hosted by the Tasmanian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand (CASANZ), the workshop was opened this morning by Chair of the EPA Board, Mr Warren Jones.

Mr Jones said that wood smoke is the main air pollutant in Tasmania, like many regional areas in Australia and New Zealand, but this was the first time that it had received such a comprehensive focus by experts from interstate and overseas.

"The specialists will look at a range of common issues, share experiences and hear ideas for the future management of wood smoke pollution," Mr Jones said.

"The EPA has always been keen to work with other Australian and overseas jurisdictions, to learn how others approach these challenges," he said.

"Tasmania provides an ideal location for discussing wood smoke pollution precisely because it is the primary air pollutant here and the focus of EPA’s air monitoring activities.

Mr Jones said that while the experts hail from elsewhere, the workshop had a local focus and was designed to provide the context for what many regional areas experience both in Australia and New Zealand. A public forum has been included as part of the workshop, offering local residents the opportunity to learn more about wood smoke and see a practical demonstration of the EPA’s mobile air quality monitoring equipment.

"The car-based smoke survey tool developed by EPA Tasmania staff, won an award for innovation from CASANZ in 2014, and has attracted the interest and use by other Australian jurisdictions," he said.

"The equipment will be used to measure air quality around Deloraine during the public forum and the data will be transmitted live to the forum for interpretation and discussion," said Mr Jones.

Mr Jones explained that the Deloraine air monitoring station is part of the EPA’s extensive air quality monitoring network across the state, which boasts 34 baseline air network stations, providing information on smoke levels and real-time reporting to the EPA’s website. The data is also harvested by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services for its web-based automated air quality advisory notices and by the Asthma Foundation of Tasmania, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Tasmania for the AirRater smart phone app.

"EPA air monitoring has provided a new window on the spatial extent and occurrence of smoke in many towns and communities across Tasmania, providing a significant amount of information on smoke levels, plume movement and smoke dispersal," he said.

"This information has benefited the development of smoke management practices for planned burns and has provided new insights into winter-time wood smoke issues.

"This in turn has also contributed significantly to the 'Burn Brighter this Winter' promotional campaign, to help raise community awareness about the problem of domestic wood smoke and some simple household solutions," said Mr Jones.

For more information about the public forum, contact Denice Barker, EPA on 0427 373342.