A review of the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards Relating to Certain Air Pollutants, Dioxins and other Toxics) Regulations 2004 (the air quality standards) was announced by Environment Minister Hon Dr Nick Smith on 10 June 2009.
The air quality standards, which were gazetted in 2004, set threshold concentrations for certain air pollutants. They provide nationally consistent, bottom-line standards that should not be breached.
This report provides information on the review of the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality. It includes information on:
- the Technical Advisory Group for Air Quality
- proposed amendments to the standards
- summary of submissions
- list of submitters.
An independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for Air Quality was commissioned by the Government in 2009 to review the standard for particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10). The TAG, which had specific Terms of Reference, considered whether:
- the number of permitted exceedances (one per year) of the ambient PM10 standard is appropriate for New Zealand
- disallowing industry consents (as required by the air quality standards after 2013 if the standards are not met) is equitable when industry contributes a small proportion of pollutants
- the 2013 timetable is achievable and whether it has a suitable cost/benefit balance.
The TAG presented an independent report containing its recommendations to the Minister for the Environment in November 2009. Based on these recommendations, the Government agreed to public consultation on several options, including two preferred options.
The Ministry for the Environment published a discussion document on the proposed amendments in June 2010. Five workshops were held in main centres and general submissions were invited by the Ministry. Submissions closed on 9 July 2010.
This information summarises submissions on the proposed amendments. It outlines the options presented in the discussion document and presents a summary of the submissions received. It is not intended to provide an analysis of the views presented in submissions or to present recommendations in response to the submissions.
Options for changes to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality
The discussion document contained the recommendations of the TAG together with three other option packages, including the Minister's preferred options.
- Option 1 was the TAG's recommendations.
- Option 2 put the greatest weight on obtaining health benefits.
- Option 3 aimed to give equal weight to obtaining health benefits and ensuring equity.
- Option 4a was very similar to the TAG's recommendations, with the difference lying in the industries to be affected and the timeline for mandatory offsets to take effect.
- Option 4b differed from 4a only in that all industry consent restrictions were removed.
Options 4a and 4b were the two preferred options because they:
- allowed councils more time to reduce PM10 levels in their regions but retained enough pressure for councils to achieve compliance
- promoted a 'local solutions to local problems' approach but with increased ministerial oversight.
Table 1 provides a comparison of each option with the status quo, the existing air quality standards.
Table 1: Comparison of options for possible changes to the NES for air quality with the status quo
|No.||Description of possible changes |
to NES for air quality
|Status Quo||Option 1||Option 2||Option 3||Option 4a||Option 4b|
|1||Increase the number of permitted |
exceedances from 1 to 3
|2||Exclude exceptional events from |
being counted as exceedances
|3||Removal all industry consent restrictions||3||3|
|4||Extend timeline to 2020 (maximum)||4||4 (2018)||4 (2018)|
|5||Place a greater focus on education||5||5||5|
|6||Require mandatory reporting (PM10 monitoring data)||6||6||6||6||6|
|7||Require councils to submit airshed implementation plans||7|
|8||Increased ministerial oversight||8|
|9||Investigate funding links (link funding |
to areas without a plan in place)
|10||Retain one permitted exceedance||10||10||10|
|11||Retain industry restrictions||11||11|
|12||Retain the 2013 timeline||12||12|
|13||Use existing ministerial powers under the RMA (s27)||13||13||13||13|
|14||Establish an air quality compliance strategy||14||14||14||14|
|15||Investigate funding links |
(link funding to breaching airsheds)
|16||National guidance on domestic emission restrictions||16||16|
|17||Introduce mandatory offsets for all discharge |
consents in breaching airsheds after 2013
|18||Introduce mandatory offsets for new industry |
consents in breaching airsheds after 2018
One hundred and fourteen submissions were received. The largest number of submissions came from industry (50), followed by the general public (28) and local government (21), as shown in Figure 1 below. For a list of submitters see table 2.
Figure 1: Breakdown of submissions
This pie chart sorts the 114 submissions into six categories:
Health sector 4%
Central government 4%
Local government 19%
General public 25%
Themes in submissions
A number of themes emerged from the submissions. There was clear support for improvements in several areas:
- improving equity, as the existing rules focus attention primarily on industry
- a greater focus on education, especially on the health impacts of PM10 emissions
- development of a national compliance strategy, led by central government.
Sectors differed in what they expressed opposition to:
- local government and industry expressed strong opposition to the current standards– particularly the blanket prohibition on industry consents imposed after 1 September 2013
- industry expressed strong opposition to mandatory offsets1
- other stakeholders expressed strong opposition to decreasing health protection, by extending the current target compliance date from 2013.
Figure 2 shows the preferred options expressed by submitters. There was no overall clear preference for any of the options outlined in the discussion document, although industry expressed a clear preference for Option 4b (in which all consent restrictions are removed). The largest number of submitters put forward proposals of their own ('Other'in Figure 2).
Figure 2: Submitters' preferred options
Option 2: 1%
Option 3: 3%
Option 4a: 12%
Option 4b: 34%
Status quo: 3%
No preference: 5%
Figure 3: Breakdown of preferred options
This table breaks down each option into the number of submitters in each category who expressed a preference for that option:
|TAG||Option 2||Option 3||Option 4a||Option 4b||Status Quo||No preference||Other|
Table 2: List of submitters
1. There did not, however, appear to be a common understanding that the proposal only related to new industry with significant discharges of PM10 and only those located in polluted airsheds. This may be due to provisions of the RMA which require that existing industry be considered as 'new' when applying to renew a resource consent. However, the PM10 regulations currently contain different provisions for existing (regulation 17C) and new (regulations 17A and 17B) industry.
Last updated: 29 January 2011