Cantabrians should use ''whatever means they have available'' to keep warm this winter, Environment Canterbury (ECan) says.
In a letter to be published in The Press tomorrow, ECan air commissioner David Bedford said the needs of Canterbury residents this winter would take priority over air rules.
''People are not being prohibited from keeping warm this winter ... Instead, Environment Canterbury is encouraging people who have been significantly affected by the earthquake and who are waiting for their home to be rebuilt or repaired to use whatever means they have available to them to keep warm,'' he said.
That meant quake-affected residents could use an open fire or an older woodburner, which was normally not allowed under ECan air-quality rules, as long as it was safe to do so, Bedford told The Presstoday.
''We're not going to go knocking on doors to see if people are doing it.'' he said.
''What we've told our monitoring and compliance people is to take a pretty light-handed approach and take into account people's circumstances.''
He said ECan expected people would be living in damaged homes for ''quite some time''.
''We'll take this sort of approach for as long as there are people out there who are waiting.''
Relaxation of the rules could have ''a detrimental effect'' on Christchurch's air quality, Bedford said.
In 2010, before the region's quakes, Christchurch had 16 days of high air pollution, while last year 34 days of high air pollution were recorded.
However, about 12 of those were caused by liquefaction dust and grit on roads.
Christchurch had already experienced nine days of high pollution so far this year.
Bedford said that despite the exemption for people in damaged homes, those in undamaged homes were not allowed to use non-complying burners.
''Hopefully we won't get people taking advantage of that.''
ECan had not changed its stance and logburners would not be allowed in new homes, he said.