Roles and responsibilities for managing air quality

This page provides an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the Ministry for the Environment, regional councils and unitary authorities for managing air quality management under the Resource Management Act.

The role of the Ministry for the Environment

The Ministry promotes clean and healthy air for all New Zealanders by developing national policies and tools to maintain and where necessary improve air quality.

An important role of the Ministry is to provide national environmental standards, and guidance for regional councils and unitary authorities to manage the air in their regions. This national guidance includes ambient air quality guidelines, good-practice guidance, research and reporting, and assistance with public education campaigns. It does not have a formal enforcement role – this has been delegated to regional councils and unitary authorities.

The Ministry also contributes to international initiatives to improve air quality.  

See the Ministry’s action plan for dioxins and other annex C chemicals contained within New Zealand’s National Implementation Plan under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

See New Zealand's involvement in the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The role of regional councils and unitary authorities

Under the Resource Management Act, regional councils and unitary authorities are responsible for managing air quality.  Regional councils must also ensure the air quality standards are met within their regions. 

Councils can use several different tools to meet the requirements of the resource management act and air quality standards. They can establish policies and rules through their regional plans to manage particular issues in their regions, issue resource consents for discharges from industrial and trade premises, carry out education campaigns and provide incentives for people to use cleaner forms of home heating.

Regional plans (sometimes called ‘air plans’) address specific air quality issues for each region. They outline a regional council’s goals for air quality and contain rules about discharges to air from activities such as industry, domestic fires and vehicles. Preparing such a regional plan involves several stages. Public participation and communication with the local community is important and is achieved through meetings and submissions.

Each council is at a different stage in the development of its regional plan. For more information about the plan for your area contact your local regional council – council contact details are available through:

Council maps and websites [New Zealand Local Government website].

Councils can also create bylaws which regulate air quality management under a different piece of legislation, the Local Government Act 2002.

The role of territorial authorities 

Under the Resource Management Act, territorial authorities (either city or district councils) must implement the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality and must ensure implementation of the regional council rules and policies related to air quality as set out in the relevant regional plan. The Ministry suggests councils liaise with the relevant regional council to ensure they are aware of any regional rules for air quality in the area.  Territorial authorities may also make bylaws (under the Local Government Act) to control air quality in their area.

The territorial authority is responsible for issuing building consents for solid fuel appliances, which must meet installation and other requirements of the Building Act 2004.

The Ministry suggests that territorial authorities issue an advice note with a building consent for solid fuel appliances alerting the owner to the air quality regulations and/or regional rules, as these regulations prevent discharges to air from any non-complying burner. The Ministry further suggests councils liaise with the relevant regional council, as they are responsible for enforcement of the regulations.

Council contact details are available through Council maps and websites [New Zealand Local Government website].