About the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality

This page provides information on the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality including what they cover and guidance on implementing the standards. 

What the NES covers

The National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES) are regulations made under the Resource Management Act 1991 which aim to set a guaranteed minimum level of health protection for all New Zealanders.

The NES is made up of 14 separate but interlinked standards. The 14 standards in the NES include:

  • seven standards banning activities that discharge significant quantities of dioxins and other toxics into the air
  • five standards for ambient (outdoor) air quality
  • a design standard for new wood burners installed in urban areas
  • a requirement for landfills over 1 million tonnes of refuse to collect greenhouse gas emissions.

Regional councils and unitary authorities are responsible for managing air quality under the Resource Management Act. They are required to identify areas where air quality is likely, or known, to exceed the standards. These areas are known as airsheds.

Amendments to the NES

The National Environmental Standards for Air Quality were first introduced in 2004. The standards, which were issued as regulations, were amended in December 2004, July 2005 and November 2008. These amendments were largely made for technical reasons.

In 2009, the regulations relating to PM10 were reviewed to address concerns about the perceived stringency of the ambient standard, the lack of equity for industrial air pollution sources, and the difficulty in achieving the original target timeline of 2013.

In response, the standards were revised and the amended regulations came into force on 1 June 2011. These have been consolidated into the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004.

Guidance on implementing the NES

The Ministry has released the following publications to provide guidance on implementing the standards:

Guidance for local government air quality practitioners on implementing the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004. This guide includes guidance on the 2011 amendments and replaces the 2005 version.

Guidance for regional council officers and their elected representatives on how to achieve compliance with the ambient PM10 standard.

Exceptional circumstances

In 2011, the provision for exceptional circumstances was added to the NES for air quality as Regulation 16A. This provision allows regional councils to apply for an exceedance of air quality standards as being caused by exceptional circumstances.

For more information about what may be an exceptional circumstance, criteria for assessment, and how to apply, see:

Wood burners

Design standards for wood burners are fundamental to improving ambient (outdoor) air quality in urban areas of New Zealand. The NES requires that all wood burners installed on properties less than 2 hectares must have discharge of less than 1.5 grams of particulate for each kilogram of dry wood burnt, and a thermal efficiency of at least 65 per cent.

The Ministry has compiled a list of authorised wood burners that have been tested and found to meet the performance requirements of the national wood burner standard.

Review of wood burners

In 2005, the Ministry, in partnership with Environment Canterbury and Nelson City Council, began a national wood burner performance review to see how the design standards were working in practice. The review was completed in early 2008 and led to the publication of the New Zealand domestic solid fuel burner authorisation manual.

Key documents

The regulations were gazetted and came into effect on 8 October 2004. Copies of the regulations and amendments can be purchased from government bookstores, or are available online at Online legislation [Parliamentary Counsel Office website] or from Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004 [New Zealand Legislation website]

User's guide

Public notice - access to material incorporated by reference

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations 2004 incorporate the following material by reference:

United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40 – protection of Environment, Volume 2, part 50, Appendix J – Reference method for the determination of particulate matter as PM10 in the atmosphere

Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4013:2014, Domestic solid fuel burning appliances – Method for determination of flue gas emissions

Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4012:2014, Domestic solid fuel burning appliances – Method for determination of power output and efficiency

Australian Standard AS 3580.7.1:1992, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of carbon monoxide-Direct-reading instrumental method

Australian Standard AS 3580.5.1:1993, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of oxides of nitrogen–Chemiluminescence method

Australian Standard AS 3580.6.1:1990, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of ozone-Direct-reading instrumental method

Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3580.9.6:2003, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of suspended particulate matter–PM10 high volume sampler with size-selective inlet-Gravimetric method

Australian Standard AS 3580.9.8:2008, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of suspended particulate matter–PM10 continuous direct mass method using a tapered element oscillating microbalance analyser

Australian Standard AS 3580.9.11:2008, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of suspended particulate matter – PM10 beta attenuation monitors

Australian Standard AS 3580.4.1:2008, Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air–Determination of sulphur dioxide–Direct-reading instrumental method

This incorporated material can be inspected by appointment free of charge at the Ministry for the Environment’s head office:

Environment House
23 Kate Sheppard Place
Thorndon
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

To make an appointment to inspect the incorporated material, please contact the Ministry for the Environment on:
Email: infocentre@mfe.govt.nz
Phone: (04) 439 7537

Photocopying incorporated material is not permitted.

Alternatively the incorporated material may be purchased from:

Standards New Zealand Limited
Radio New Zealand House
Level 10, 155 The Terrace
Wellington 6011
Freephone 0800 782 632
Email: enquiries@standards.co.nz
Website: http://www.standards.co.nz

Other documents

The text of the Basel Convention [Secretariat of the Basel Convention website] It is available for purchase from the Earthprint website.

United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40 – protection of Environment, Volume 2, part 50, Appendix J – Reference method for the determination of particulate matter as PM10 in the atmosphere [US Government Printing Office website] [PDF, 176 KB]. It is available for purchase from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore workshop.

Find out more

If you would like more information on the air quality standards please email info@mfe.govt.nz.

Reviewed:
11/12/14