The purpose of this report is to present the views of the Yarra Ranges Shire community engaged in EPA’s citizen science project Community led action plan for smoke: Yarra Ranges pilot.


Throughout the year, community members from Yarra Ranges report poor air quality to Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) and the Yarra Ranges Shire Council (the council). These community members have expressed concerns about the impacts of smoke-generating activities on their health and the environment.

Air quality in the Yarra Ranges Shire is mostly good. EPA’s air quality data shows that Yarra Ranges Shire can sometimes experience poor air quality resulting from smoke generated by bushfires, bushfire hazard reduction and other land burning activities. More information is available in Air quality in the Yarra Valley: a summary of the state of knowledge (publication 1948).

Smoke can negatively impact: 

  • community health and wellbeing
  • regional agriculture for example smoke taint in wine grapes
  • local economic activity such as tourism.

As part of this citizen science pilot project, we collaborated with the local community of the Yarra Ranges Council. The purpose of this pilot was to provide information on air quality and health, and for the engaged community to use this knowledge to develop a set of community-led actions to better address local air quality and health impacts.

The pilot community project group

Members of the Yarra Ranges community nominated to be involved in the EPA pilot.

For many, involvement in the pilot project was connected to their concern about wellbeing, discomfort and impacts on lifestyle and enjoyment of their property because of smoke. Community participants represented themselves, in addition to community groups such as Warburton Environment Inc. Some community participants were also active in other smoke air pollution forums such as My Air Quality Australia, Clean Air Communities and the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Victoria.

It is important to note the community engaged in this pilot project does not necessarily represent the views of all residents living in the area.

Pilot format

Through three intensive, three-hour workshops in March, April and May 2021, EPA worked alongside community participants to develop the actions presented in this report. The three workshops:

  • sought to provide a greater understanding of smoke's behaviour in the environment and impacts on human health, including how to better use wood heaters and burn wood in ways to reduce emissions from wood stoves at home
  • delivered presentations from guest speakers including the Country Fire Authority (CFA), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV), Yarra Ranges Council, Australian Catholic University and EPA
  • collated the perspectives of community and state government agencies to inform development of a community-led action plan for reducing smoke’s impacts on human health.

The pilot project participants developed the 13 actions. The actions reflect areas where the community would like to focus future efforts and work with one another, local and state governments to promote positive change in the areas of smoke and health.

Yarra Ranges smoke plan: community-led actions

The workshops and resources provided by EPA, Yarra Ranges Shire Council, guest presenters and the participant’s knowledge and experience informed the report actions. The actions presented provide a set of approaches that are locally relevant and may address community concerns about smoke and its health impacts.

Throughout the pilot project there were specific issues that repeatedly emerged as key themes. These themes provide the overarching focus areas of the actions developed by the participants engaged in the pilot.


Community education and information

Better communication and relevant information sharing in areas of air quality and health to raise awareness and empower informed decision making in the community.

Fuel management

Exploring options to adjust fuel management approaches and support, including burning to be undertaken as a last resort, where appropriate.

Smoke reduction

Opportunities to reduce smoke-generating activities, such as by revising local laws.

Environmental monitoring

Continuing and enhancing current environmental monitoring to understand smoke sources and inform current and potential future actions.

Proposed actions

Community education and information

1. Expanded avenues for raising and resolving localised smoke complaints, including outside of business hours.

Community to work with YRC to identify further opportunities to raise and resolve local smoke complaints.

Community to work with established groups and networks in YRS to promote the efficient use of smoke complaint contact information.

2. Enhance information provision to residents regarding smoke producing activities online, and via other media (for examples, newspapers).

Community to work with local health care providers and Yarra Ranges Shire Council to pilot a communication program to identify opportunities to improve availability and quality of local smoke messaging.

3. All smoke events are supported by appropriate health messaging which can be applied any time of the day or night.

Community to work with YRC, local health care providers and appropriate State Government agencies to refine smoke messaging. This could be linked and/or build upon the finding from action 2.

4. Promote government funded air filters, including for sensitive groups such as schools, aged care facilities and individuals with respiratory problems.

Community to lobby Yarra Ranges Council and state government agencies to provide and/or subsidise air quality monitoring devices for people sensitive to air pollution. EPA defines those most sensitive to air pollution as children younger than 14, people older than 65, people with heart and lung conditions, including asthma and pregnant women.

There are opportunities to link this action with existing State Government initiatives focussing on addressing inefficient heating systems, such as action 10.

5. Improve health impact data gathering and the understanding of the cost/benefits of the health impacts from smoke.

Community to work with local health care providers, YRC and State Government agencies to support collection of health data associated with smoke events. This could be linked and/or build upon action 2 and 3.

6. Undertake further research, including:

  • research into Victorian traditional owners regarding cultural ‘cool burns.’

  • impactful methods of communication

  • exploring models applied internationally to reduce smoke and health impacts

  • a ventilation index/wind direction model to assist in regulating planned burning.

Community to provide a list of suggested research priorities to Yarra Ranges Shire Council and state government agencies for consideration, with focus on promoting knowledge development and sharing in areas of smoke and health.

7. Maintain a register of woodfire heaters in the Yarra Ranges Shire municipality.

Community to work with YRC to establish and maintain the woodfire heater register.

Fuel management

8. Actively promote alternative options to burning, including the re-use of green waste, mulching, animals or other alternatives.

Community to work with established groups, networks and Yarra Ranges Shire Council to promote alternative burning options locally.

Community to report smoke complaints to Yarra Ranges Shire Council for appropriate resolution. This could be linked and/or build upon the finding from action 2.

Community to request a follow up meeting with FFMV and VicForests to further discuss alternative fuel management options, particularly for smoke from planned and regeneration burning.

Smoke activity

9. Promote the reduction in the number of days burning can occur on private properties in Yarra Ranges Shire, including burning of green waste, over the next 10 years.

Community to work with Yarra Ranges Shire residents, business and Yarra Ranges Shire Council to identify suitable opportunities to reduce the number of days that burning can occur on private property. Opportunities could include a reduction in wet burning for example June-August) and hours of burning (for example reduction from 24-hour burning to avoid cold air inversion trapping smoke in valley areas).

Community to work with Yarra Ranges Shire Council to develop guidelines to support enforcement and reduction of residential private property burning. This could be linked and/or build upon the finding from action 2 and 3.

Community to provide feedback to Yarra Ranges Shire Council as part of a forthcoming land zoning review.

10. Expand the Victorian Government's rebate for transition to lower emissions technologies for heating.

Community to advocate for expansion of the alternative heating rebate. This could be linked and/or build upon action 4.

11. Undertake smoke risk assessments as part of the planned burning process.

Community to work with the State Government to integrate smoke health risk assessment into the planned burning process. This could be linked and/or build upon the finding from action 2 and 3.

Environmental monitoring

12. Conduct additional air quality monitoring in Yarra Ranges Shire.

Community to work with Yarra Ranges Shire Council to conduct further air quality monitoring that is localised to air quality complaints from action 1.

Community to work with established groups and networks in YRS to promote localised air quality monitoring, in accordance with publicly available information on particle sensors, such as Particle sensor factsheet (publication 1745).

13. Develop further citizen science air quality monitoring in Yarra Ranges Shire.

Community to work with established groups and networks to build upon the outcomes of this pilot project to establish a local air quality monitoring network. A focus of further projects could include engaging wider community in air quality and health discussions. This could be linked and/or build upon the finding from action 2 and 12.

Progressing community-led actions

The project participants remain the champions of the 13 actions captured in this report. They will work with one another and engage local and state government agencies to support delivery of the community-led actions.

In the immediate term, community have championed establishment of a new community group on environmental matters in Gruyere, and separately, community-led air quality monitoring. Further information regarding these community projects can be found online via Airveda and Purple Air websites, and via social media @smokepollutionvic.

EPA will be following up with the community participants on implementation of these actions.

Conclusion and acknowledgements


The community-led action plan for smoke: Yarra Ranges pilot has developed 13 actions in collaboration with community participants that could assist in reducing the harmful impacts of smoke in YRS.

While the report actions are targeted at concerns within the Yarra Ranges Shire, there is potential for them to be applied more broadly to similarly affected communities.

Smoke reduction programs can benefit significantly from local knowledge and input from community members.

The 13 report actions could also be used by participants and community to influence and inform future policies and decisions regarding impacts of smoke on the environment and on environmental public health and wellbeing.


EPA would like to sincerely thank all the participants involved in community-led action plan for smoke: Yarra Ranges pilot without whom these actions would not be possible. This includes the community representatives that dedicated significant personal time to attend, participate in extensive discussions and provide their input. Thank you also to cross-government colleagues that assisted to provide information and facilitate the project including colleagues from CFA, DELWP FFMV, YRC and ACU. Lastly, thank you to Capire Consulting.