Air quality roles and responsibilities

This page provides an overview of our role and responsibilities and those of  regional councils, and unitary and territorial authorities for managing air quality under the Resource Management Act.

Ministry's role

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. Implementation of the Air Quality NES 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.

Role of regional councils and unitary authorities

Under the Resource Management Act (RMA), 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 and are responsible for enforcement of the regulations.

Councils can use several different tools to meet the requirements of the RMA and the Air Quality NES. 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 address specific air quality issues for each region 

Regional plans (sometimes called ‘air plans’) outline a regional council’s goals for air quality and contain rules about discharges to air from activities such as industry, domestic fires and outdoor burning. 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.

Frequency that regional plans are reviewed

The RMA sets the frequency regional plans need to be reviewed to ensure that air quality issues in the region are managed. 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].

Role of territorial authorities 

Under the RMA, territorial authorities (either city or district councils) must implement the Air Quality NES and ensure implementation of the regional council rules and policies related to air quality. These are set out in the relevant regional plan. The Ministry encourages local councils to liaise with the relevant regional council to ensure they are aware of any regional rules for air quality in their 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 both the home heating-related standards of the Air Quality NES and the installation and other requirements of the Building Act 2004. Consent officers refer to the list of authorised woodburners, the ban on new open fires and home heating rules in the regional plan when processing building consents for burners. 

For council contact details see Council maps and websites [New Zealand Local Government website].