By Melissa Davies
The Earthquake Commission is going to pay homeowners for the cost of installing modern, efficient heaters to replace chimneys damaged in the earthquake.
The decision has obvious benefits for the environment, but an air quality scientist is already campaigning to have some of the chimneys rebuilt.
Firefighter Mark Whittaker has lost count of the number of chimneys he's knocked down since the earthquake.
"We've spent a lot of our time assessing, and in most cases, taking them down," he says, "so probably most of the crews have done hundreds of chimneys on a daily basis."
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says today's heating announcement is an opportunity to improve houses and the environment in the clean up process.
"It is a matter of choice for people, but this is a bright spot in what is an otherwise difficult situation."
Homeowners will have the option of rebuilding their damaged chimney or replacing it with new clean heating, like a heat pump.
Either way, it's an $8000 job and the EQC is paying.
So far 53,000 claims have been lodged with the EQC - 15,000 of those claims are for chimney damage.
NIWA air quality scientist Jeff Bluett has a love-hate relationship with chimneys - he doesn't want people to use them, but he says they're of important historical value.
"The chimney was an indicator of social status in the community in those days," he says.
Mr Bluett admits the chimney damage does have benefits.
"If you're looking for a silver lining from the earthquake this has to be one. There should be an improvement in air quality from it simply because people are no longer able to operate a lot of the open fires in Christchurch."
But the chimney cheerleader also wants people to rebuild for aesthetic purposes only.