Complaints about irritating smoke

Complaints about irritating smoke
Rhonda Dredge

Something needs to be done about the smoke drifting into a resident’s apartment in Haines St, North Melbourne.

It wouldn’t bother Jan Lacey if the smoke from the nearby chimney was occasional.

And she’s not saying that all domestic wood fires should be banned.

But in some weeks during last winter her neighbours lit a fire first thing every morning.

Ms Lacey has written to the City of Melbourne about the issue. Her first email was a year ago. She wants them to do an inspection.

Up until this month the council was unwilling to exercise the power it had to investigate a nuisance.

Now, according to Ms Lacey, the council’s health and wellbeing team has finally agreed to send someone out. “I got a phone call they’d send someone out to make an assessment,” she said.

Ms Lacey has been so worn down by the process she said she was willing to let it go until next winter. “This time of the year it’s all over,” she said.

When North West City News visited on a Sunday at 4pm the smoke was visible and it had infiltrated the flat through a screen door.

Ms Lacey has just got over COVID and has underlying respiratory issues, asthma and bronchiectasis.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate,” she said. “I’m not feeling that well.”

Ms Lacey is a veteran campaigner. She worked for trade unions and is on a committee looking at social housing in the area. She’s surprised that the council has been so unresponsive.

“They’ve fobbed me off for a year. They need a policy on wood fires.”

She has a sheaf of correspondence but doesn’t want to embarrass officers by quoting directly from it.

Suffice to say, the emails claim there has not been enough complaints to council about wood burning in fireplaces to warrant a policy.

Ms Lacey says that other councils have policies and the EPA has confirmed the council could order that an unsafe fire be modified.

The chimney is just a few metres to the west of the door to Ms Lacey’s second-floor flat and the smoke catches the prevailing wind.

The smoke is irritating and she’s adamant that the council at least needs a policy about how it handles such complaints. •

Like us on Facebook