Fletchers strains to install heaters
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2011
Construction company Fletchers says it cannot guarantee Cantabrians with damaged chimneys will get new heating appliances before winter.
Fletchers spokesman Barry Akers said getting replacement heating into all "priority" homes under the Government's chimney-replacement scheme by May 1 was a "big challenge", especially because of the extra damage from the February 22 earthquake.
"We don't know how many claims we will be dealing with ultimately, so we can't say when the last priority installation will be done," he said.
There were thought to be 4500 priority claims early in the year, but that figure will rise after February's quake.
Fletchers could not say yesterday how many priority claims there were or how many houses had had new heating installed under the programme.
Householders have three months from the February 22 quake to claim for damage.
Akers said there were no problems with heat-pump availability, and units could be sourced quickly from New Zealand and Australia. The number of solid-fuel heaters was limited.
"We are going as fast as we can to deal with the issue," Akers said.
Orion is erecting temporary overhead power lines in the eastern suburbs to meet winter power demands.
Environment Canterbury (ECan) said it would take a pragmatic approach to enforcing clean-air rules should people need to use older woodburners or open fires to heat their damaged homes.
Christchurch Central Labour MP Brendon Burns said he had written to the Government this week asking it to consider a package to help quake-hit low and middle-income earners with higher power bills if efficient replacement heating could not be installed before winter.
"Power bills are going to go through the roof," he said. "People are going to be heating homes with cracks and gaps in them."
Asked if he was happy with the programme's progress, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said: "I'm happy with the awareness of the difficulties and the willingness to solve the problems."
Responding to Burns's call for assistance, Brownlee said the Government was monitoring the situation.
The programme, which allows homes with "significantly damaged" chimneys to switch to clean-burning heaters, was initially run by the Government's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. However, the authority was criticised for its management, particularly for not doing more over summer.
Spokeswoman Vicki Connor said the authority was originally meant to deal with homes with chimney damage and no other structural damage.
"But the size of the problem after all of the earthquakes was obviously so much bigger than anyone had anticipated," she said.
Brownlee said the crossover of chimney damage and significant building damage was far too common for the authority to keep managing the programme. "It became a bit ridiculous."
Authority-approved builders have been assigned to Fletcher "hubs".
To make a claim for chimney damage, householders should call 0800 DAMAGE or email email@example.com.
- The Press