The Tasmanian Government has released draft smoke laws that reduce the number of landholders allowed to burn vegetation and toughen standards around wood-heater emissions.
The laws would also make it easier to fine people if their barbecues produce too much smoke.
The Tasmanian BBQ Society is worried the proposed new regulations will hit meat-loving Tasmanians right in the grill.
“When you’re talking about the amounts of smoke that some of these permit and controlled burns give off, in comparison to what is an Australian way of life — the barbecue — it’s a joke,” president Rowan Peterson said.
Barbecues have become big business in recent years with models described as “turbo”.
The surge in popularity has seen barbecues reach the price and size of a small car.
One brand with six burners sells for $6400.
They trade with descriptions like “turbo” the “low’n’slow”, a popular way to cook meat which creates volumes of smoke.
The draft regulations state that barbecue smoke is unlawful if it is:
(a) visible for a continuous period of 10 minutes or more; and
(b) during that continuous 10-minute period is visible for a continuous period of 30 seconds — (i) in the case of a heating appliance or fireplace in a building, or part of a building at a distance of 10 metres or more from the point on the building, or part of the building, where the smoke is emitted; or (ii) in the case of a heating appliance or outdoor heating or cooking appliance or fireplace that is not in a building, or part of a building — at a distance of 10 metres or more from the point where the smoke is emitted.
That is from a distance of 10 metres, or as Mr Peterson fears, from the other side of a malicious neighbour’s fence.
“If you have a nasty neighbour and/or a grumpy person that lives in your street, in my opinion it’s just a tenuous argument that they can use to cause more issues,” he said.
Much of the Draft Smoke Act is not new and is a rewording of the 2007 rules.
What is new is the capacity of council officers to levy fines of two penalty units where fires break smoke rules and the power for magistrates to impose fines of up to $1600 as a maximum penalty in the courts.
“There’s so many forms of barbecue that relate to so many cultures in Australia,” Mr Peterson said.
“Not only does it affect your backyard bloke doing chops and snags, it’ll affect anyone potentially who wants to cook outdoors.”
On social media most residents were against the changes.
“They can fine me all they like I’ll be still having a nice smoking BBQ unless it’s a total fire ban,” Quinton Turner posted on ABC Hobart’s Facebook page.
“Bugger off fun police, a smoking BBQ keeps the mozzies away,” Brendon Nowak said.
Public urged to have a say
The draft rules have been released by the Environmental Protection Authority.
Director Wes Ford said the new rules were up for public discussion and people should make submissions if they opposed the inclusion of barbecues.
He said the regulations aimed to reduce smoke in residential and urban areas.
“The draft regulations do not ban anything, what they seek to do is manage smoke that is from fires and barbecues where the smoke is really impacting on neighbours,” he said.
“This is not about it being un-Australian, at the end of the day barbecues can cause smoke.”
Under the changes council officers will be able to issues fines.
“It means that environmental health officers from local government are able to issue environmental infringement notices, or on the spot fines, rather than having to go to court.”
The Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) said most of the draft rules were already in place but it would consult councils about the changes.
Chief executive officer Katrina Stephenson said it would be difficult to enforce, given barbecues were generally a weekend activity.
Submissions close on August 17.