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3.1 General submissions

Air Quality Technical Report Number 46, Section 1.3, contained the following objectives:

  • create a level playing field across New Zealand
  • provide certainty and consistency
  • guarantee a level of protection for the health of all New Zealanders
  • drive effective regional and national policies to improve air quality.

Submissions received relating to the broad objectives of the standards, those of a general nature, and those that raise issues not covered in the proposal are summarised below.

Submitter 1 comments that the standards are likely to fail to achieve the first three aims because:

  • they tilt the field against industry when it is not the main contributor
  • there is no certainty about whether existing consents will be able to be renewed
  • there is no real suggestion as to how cars and existing home fires will be dealt with, leaving it up to councils to develop their own solutions.

Submitter 2 comments that care is needed to ensure that the standards do provide a level playing field between different sectors and notes that areas where this is not currently the case are:

  • banning high-temperature incineration but allowing school incinerators if they have consent
  • banning-high temperature incineration in contrast with controls on other similar-sized emission sources
  • controls on industry and domestic sources, which should be consistent.

Submitter 3 is not sure that the objectives will be achieved as long as councils have the power under section 43(b)(2) of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) to set more stringent rules. The submitter agrees that some areas require more stringent guidelines but is concerned at the lack of consistency in regional plans as to how these areas are dealt with. The submitter asks that consideration be given to the stated objectives and the flexibility provided by the RMA, and to developing a range of national environmental standards that can be applied to locations with similar sensitivities.

Submitter 3 is concerned that the standards focus on point sources, and notes that there are some sources such as quarries, landfills and roads that would not be covered by the term "point source". The submitter wants the types of sources the standards cover to be clearly defined to ensure that all significant sources are covered - not just point sources. Submitter 3 also wants the standards to make it clear that all sources within an air shed must contribute equally to any reduction necessary to meet the proposed standards.

Submitters 6, 163 and 174 support the principle of developing national standards for air quality but do not support the standards in their current form. They are concerned that the standards will have no substantial influence on motor vehicles, significant improvements in air quality can only be achieved by reducing these emissions. The submitters want the Ministry to take a leading role in aspects that affect vehicle emissions, such as the development of national fuel specifications, vehicle emission standards, fuel taxation, major roading developments and other environmental aspects of transport. The submitters also seek the incorporation of practicable measures in the standards to make improvements in vehicle emissions; for example, applying the national standards to major roadway developments and requiring developers to assess the environmental impacts of new roads.

Submitters 6, 163 and 174 are concerned that the consultation process has not allowed for constructive and informed submissions. They seek the opportunity to peer review and provide further comment once the standard has been made more definitive, and they want the Ministry to demonstrate how the submissions have been taken into account in developing the standards. These submitters also want the standards to include a commitment to monitoring their effectiveness following implementation.

Submitter 7 is concerned that the unitary authorities may create more restrictive requirements, which may cause restrictions on its members' activities (operating steam locomotives). The submitter seeks an assurance that no such restrictions will be imposed.

Submitter 10 wants central government to provide guidance to local government on how to effectively and efficiently implement air quality standards, focusing on which measures they can adopt to best manage vehicle emissions within their respective air sheds. The government needs to take a leadership role in managing vehicle emissions to a fair and reasonable level and should not set unrealistic expectations for local authorities or motorists to reduce their emissions to levels outside their control.

Submitter 26 is opposed to the adoption of the standards as presented and seeks an independent review of the relationships that are alleged to exist between urban air pollution and public health. The submitter seeks a programme of research to ascertain the likely quality of indoor air since this is where we spend 85% of our lives, and notes that outdoor air quality is not necessarily the key issue, instead be on things such as pollution from unflued gas appliances.

Submitter 34 strongly supports action taken at the national level to improve air quality.

Submitter 35 is concerned that the emphasis of the standards is on the consenting of commercial and industrial activities and wants the Minister to recognise that industry is a minor contributor and should not become the recipient of draconian standards. The submitter notes that the objectives do not refer to or add direction to either domestic or transport sources.

Submitter 36 supports the standards but considers more consultation may be required to develop something workable.

Submitter 38 wants pesticide contamination from spray application drift to be addressed in the standards because the effects of such drift on human health are unacceptable.

Submitter 45 is concerned that the process fails to meet the requirements of section 44 of the RMA, and in particular the opportunity to make further submissions. The submitter considers that a further submission process is desirable for changes inserted as the result of a submission. The submitter wants both a summary of submissions and a regulatory impact statement to be provided, with an opportunity for further submissions.

Submitter 46 supports the scope of the standards being restricted to specific activities in "rural" and "urban" areas because it would be inappropriate to impose standards for landfill fires and home heating on the rural environment. The submitter is, however, concerned that councils may impose urban standards on rural areas that are in close proximity to urban areas because they are in the same air shed. The standard should provide greater clarity so that the boundary between urban and rural is well defined.

Submitter 72 is concerned that the standard addresses issues in areas with an urban focus to the detriment of areas with a predominantly rural focus, and that there is no recognition that air quality issues vary throughout New Zealand.

Submitters 5 and 73 query the value of the programme since regulatory efficiency is not a primary objective of the standards, and comments that whether they will actually improve environmental effects or reduce costs is now doubtful. These submitters note that the proposal does not provide consistency because regions may override the national standards, and they comment that if local differences in air quality are a primary consideration then the scope for efficiency improvements through standards is limited. Local government's discretion to impose tighter standards should be removed.

Submitters 5 and 73 are also concerned that existing consents will be reviewed when the regulations are promulgated, which represents a potentially significant cost that is inconsistent with greater efficiency in resource management.

Submitter 75 supports the development of national air quality standards but is concerned about the current proposals. The submitter opposes the timeframe for implementing the ambient standards: it is unrealistic because domestic heating is the main source of pollution, and social and economic costs will be incurred without a reasonable transition period. If a three- to four-year timeframe is retained then funding for communities to change to cleaner heating should be provided.

Submitter 75 wants the standards to be applied to district councils and their district planning tools for air quality management, and provisions regarding monitoring the effectiveness of the standards to be included. The submitter also wants other methods to be included in the standards, such as public information campaigns, non-regulatory action plans and financial incentive schemes, and comments that a national approach to education would mean consistency in messages throughout the country.

Submitters 84 and 90 want motor vehicles to be addressed in the standard (eg, emission standards).

Submitter 85 requests that the Minister circulate the draft regulation to key stakeholders, with a minimum eight-week period for comment to enable adequate time and opportunity to comment.

The proposed standards do not provide an adequate discussion of how the standards will work in practice, including commencement and transitional requirements. The submitter seeks clarification on how the standards and future standards will relate to designations, and wants the roles and responsibilities of all parties affected by the standards to be clearly stated in the regulation.

Submitter 87 considers that the discussion period is too short and that a reasonable timeframe should be provided, compulsory standards and costs should be set out for all regional councils, and the costs and benefits to industry should be accurately assessed.

Submitter 90 considers that councils should not be able to impose stricter standards than the proposed standards because it is inconsistent with the objectives in section 1.3 of the proposed standards.

Submitter 94 supports the introduction of national environmental standards because they provide leadership on important resource management issues. The submitter requests involvement in the ongoing standards work programme and in determining priority issues for the future.

Submitter 96 comments that if regional centres are to grow, it is economically unfair to apply the same restrictive standards of air quality to them. The submitter asks that the air quality standards be implemented to complement the Government's goal of "growing an inclusive, innovative economy for the benefit of all".

Submitter 99 is concerned that the period for making submissions is inadequate and seeks more time and information for submissions. The focus of the standards is on industrial point sources and is not consistent with research that shows domestic fires and motor vehicles are the primary causes of ambient air quality problems. A detailed cost-benefit analysis should be provided because of the major economic and social consequences of the proposal. The submitter requests that the air quality standards not be applied to the assessment of industrial or commercial point source emissions, and that more detail on how the standards will be implemented be provided for further consultation and submissions.

Submitter 102 wants the Ministry to assist Environment Canterbury to meet the standards by providing government funding, argues that electricity companies should be regulated if they continue to raise prices, and wants low-sulphur diesel to be made available in the South Island.

Submitter 107 wants the quality of New Zealand fuels to be lifted to be more in line with that in most developed countries.

Submitter 109 supports the concept of national standards but considers that the Ministry needs to balance the desire for environmental enhancement and human health protection with the need for progressive improvements at an affordable cost.

Submitter 111 supports the explanation and objectives and wants them to be retained.

Submitter 113 is concerned about the process for developing the standards and that there will be no further opportunity for comment even though significant changes could be made. The submitter notes that section 44(b)(i) of the RMA requires a process that "the Minister considers gives the public adequate time and opportunity to comment on the proposed subject matter of the regulations".

Submitter 113 considers that implementation of the standards as proposed takes the decision-making away from local communities, and comments that because many aspects are currently addressed by regional councils the standards are somewhat negated. An overly regulatory approach is not required to achieve the objectives and seeks an approach of working with councils in areas where plans are not in place.

Submitter 113 does not agree that the standards will "create a level playing field" because the impact on industry will vary depending on its location and the existing levels of emissions. The submitter wants central government to take the lead on motor vehicle emissions.

Submitter 119 supports the standards in so far as they achieve the objectives, although they have concerns about the practicality and cost implications, particularly with regard to the proposed air quality standards. The submitter seeks a full cost-benefit analysis, and considers that in the absence of this the consultation is inadequate.

Submitter 122 considers that section 1.3 implies that specific point sources should also achieve the standards; that is, at the point of discharge. The submitter wants the preamble make it clear that the standards apply to the contribution of point sources to ambient air quality and suggests the wording:

It also makes sense for the contribution of specific point sources of contaminants to ambient air quality to achieve the same overall ambient standards, while taking into account any potential cumulative effects etc ...

Submitter 125 wants the standards to reference the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, the climate change programme and the Sustainable Development in New Zealand Programme of Action. The submitter seeks an early review of petroleum product specifications to improve air quality, and consideration of evaporative emissions from fuel storage and vehicle refuelling.

Submitter 127 agrees with a consistent national approach and that many issues are appropriately dealt with at a national level, but does not agree that national ambient air quality standards are appropriate to achieve the desired objectives.

Submitter 133 wants vehicle emissions and/or the effects of roading developments to be comprehensively addressed.

Submitter 139 wants the objectives to include evaluating whether the proposed standards are more cost effective than the current guidelines and enhance regulatory efficiency. The submitter wants the standards to exclude the provision for imposing more restrictive standards by regulatory authorities because the approach does not create a level playing field.

Submitter 140 supports the objectives but is not sure that the proposed implementation of the standards will achieve them. The submitter requests that consideration be given to the apparent inconsistency between the stated objectives and the flexibility provided by the provisions of section 43B of the RMA in applying national standards. Where a council intends to impose a more restrictive limit, then section 32 of the RMA must be rigorously applied.

Submitter 151 is concerned that standards that can be re-interpreted to take account of local circumstances will not achieve the stated objectives, and wants the discretion of councils to apply different standards to different areas to be removed.

Submitter 155 comments that unless there are provisions in the regulations to control the ability of councils to set stricter standards then none of the objectives will be achieved. The submitter does not want councils to have the ability to interpret standards on a local basis without very good reason.

Submitter 160 comments that the standards run counter to the RMA, which was couched to take account of different conditions in different parts of New Zealand. The submitter considers there to be no evidence that the current air quality guidelines are not working, while the national standards limit flexibility and force an emphasis on industrial and other significant point sources, with no attempt to control motor vehicle emissions. The submitter also comments that the period allowed for submissions is unacceptable.

Submitter 161 is concerned that regional councils will be able to set their own limits, which does not promote consistent and efficient air quality management, and considers that the approach should be consistent in every region unless clearly justified by local conditions. The submitter is concerned that the standards will not increase regulatory efficiency because consents will still be considered in the current manner. The submitter is also concerned that the standards target industry and therefore do not create a "level playing field", and requests that the standards address the difficulty of enforcing discharge limits for non-industry emitters.

Submitter 161 is concerned that existing resource consents will be reviewed as a result of the standards and that this re-litigation and amendment represents a potentially significant cost that is inconsistent with the aims of greater efficiency and certainty.

Submitter 167 requests that the standards not proceed without first showing that the current systems for granting resource consents are not working. The submitter comments that the one-size-fits-all approach to ambient standards is not effects-based given that the urban situation is different to that of rural communities.

Submitter 168 requests that the levels in the proposed standards be reduced to 10% or more than the level that would have occurred naturally in the absence of human activity; that the number of allowable exceedances be zero, and that the maximum limit of exceedances be not more than 10% of the allowable concentration.

Submitter 169 supports the general approach described in the objectives but is concerned that they are generally directed at industry and there is nothing that aims to reduce emissions from activities not covered by resource consents.

Submitter 174 is concerned that the standard does not address motor vehicle emissions or fuel quality and seeks the inclusion of practical measures to improve vehicle emissions. The submitter also seeks clarification on whether regional rules can impose more stringent ambient air quality requirements than national standards, and clarification of the status of the Ministry for the Environment's Ambient Air Quality Guidelines 2002 (the 2002 Guidelines) under the proposed standards.

Submitter 175 supports the concept of national environmental standards because they will provide an enforceable regulatory mechanism for air quality management. The submitter is, however, concerned about the proposals in their current form, believing further work is required and would like them to be re-notified when complete to provide an opportunity for further comment on more detailed wording. The opportunity to comment on the full draft wording rather than the Ministry's intentions will help avoid future conflict and difficulties with implementation.

Submitter 178 wants a minimum mercury emission level to be set for coal-fired power stations similar or better than the proposed US standard.

Submitter 180 considers that there should first be a national policy statement process to determine whether there are air quality problems needing national measures. The submitter is concerned that the document focuses on the management of industrial emissions to achieve air quality standards when the major sources are home heating and vehicles. The submitter does not support a national approach to dealing with industrial consents or air quality management and considers that local authorities are better placed to decide the level of resources for ambient monitoring, inventories and modelling.

Submitter 181 is unhappy with the public consultation process and wants the proposed standards to be withdrawn. The submitter is concerned that the environmental impacts from infrastructure and electromagnetic radiation are not addressed in the standard.

Submitter 183 opposes the standards in their current form because they have the potential to impose prohibitive compliance costs for monitoring, consent processes and mitigation.

Submitter 184 asks that the standards be introduced as part of a policy package that includes provision for economic incentives, monitoring, and enforcement of air quality plans. Any government funding of councils should be conditional on councils being committed to air quality plans and polluter-pays mechanisms that can achieve compliance with the standard by 2009.

Submitter 185 wants special incentives and clean air subsidies to be provided to those in the South Island because they do not have access to reticulated LPG, and the use of coal is more widespread.

Submitter 199 supports the national environmental standards as proposed.

Submitter 200 supports the aim of a level playing field and providing consistency and certainty.

Submitter 201 states that the standards are inconsistent with the aim of creating a level playing field because they will unfairly penalise economic and growth prospects in some areas. The submitter argues that the standards will not provide consistency and certainty because they allow local authorities to impose more stringent restrictions, and the submitter wants these powers to be removed.

Submitter 201 requests that the entire standards process be halted because:

  • no cost-benefit analysis has been published
  • motor vehicles are often the largest source of pollutants and should be brought into the standards framework
  • new developments may be forced into relatively pristine areas when they are more appropriate in industrial areas
  • standards should be designed to take account of different exposures in different land-use areas, such as an eight-hour exposure in an industrial area versus a 24-hour exposure in a residential area
  • a more explicit risk-based approach would better facilitate standards development
  • there is no consideration of how local authorities should allocate the capacity to new developments where ambient air quality is below the limits
  • it is unwise to create an enforcement regime when from the outset there is doubt that compliance can be achieved.

Submitter 203 opposes the standards in their current form because they are arbitrary and a four-year timeframe for compliance is unrealistic and unachievable. The submitter considers that there has been inadequate consultation and limited opportunity to be heard. The submitter requests that standards be developed that are based on a robust analysis, that a cost-benefit analysis be made available for comment; and that where there is a proposed plan in place it be allowed to be implemented without arbitrary changes being imposed. Submitter 203 also asks that the process for developing the standards be reviewed so as to be inclusive, with an opportunity to be heard.

Submitter 205 wants financial incentive schemes for educational facilities to be made available to allow them to use clean-fuel heating options, and school boards educated on the risks of air pollution. The submitter also asks that funding be provided for monitoring point sources and air quality at schools.

Submitter 206 supports the standards and wants them to be realistic and achievable for the community.

Submitter 208 supports the objectives but has concerns that the application of the standards will not achieve the objectives or provide any benefits not already provided in the 2002 Guidelines. While the standards have the potential to achieve national consistency, the ability of councils to provide stricter standards undermines the advantages of having national standards. What is more, the requirements to consider the potential cumulative effect may create uncertainty as to how the standards can be achieved and what mitigation would be required.

Submitter 208 is concerned that resourcing issues within councils have not been addressed by the proposed standards, and that it is these issues that have resulted in the 2002 Guidelines being poorly applied. The submitter wants the standards to be better understood and applied than the 2002 Guidelines.

Submitter 208 queries whether the standards will actually create regulatory efficiency gains and environmental improvements because the standards and their application are largely based on the current regime, and technical and financial resourcing is not addressed. The submitter asks that:

  • councils not be given the ability to set stricter standards
  • greater understanding of the resourcing issues faced by councils and the implications this will have for the efficient application of the standards
  • the implication of the standards on a review of consent conditions be further investigated
  • evidence be provided on the benefits of the proposed standards over and above the existing 2002 Guidelines.

Submitter 208 notes that there is no review period associated with the standards and considers that a 10-year review period is appropriate.

Submitter 209 is concerned that the standards address only fixed sources of pollution, focusing on commercial enterprises, but do not address motor vehicles, and comments that this is not a level playing field.

Submitter 213 supports the creation of certainty and a fair, level playing field throughout New Zealand, and is opposed to the approach of allowing regional plans to contain provisions that are stricter than the standards because it is contrary to the objectives. The submitter asks that local government not have the ability to interpret national standards on a local basis.

Submitter 221 wants priority to be given to including road discharges from vehicles in the standards, either under point sources or a similar classification, so that regulations can be applied.

Submitter 223 requests that the standards not preclude the opportunity to use fire as a land management tool in forestry and farming.

Submitter 224 supports the development of national standards but is concerned at the timeframe to have standards in place by mid-2004 because:

  • of co-ordination with other government policies, particularly the Vehicle Emissions Policy
  • implementation details are not sufficiently well developed
  • the mechanisms do not allow for an integrated approach of point and non-point sources (also supported by submitter 125)
  • application of the standards to existing consents and designations needs to be clarified (also supported by submitter 125)
  • of the inconsistency in air quality monitoring approaches and data availability
  • enforcement appears to be focused on punitive action rather than achieving tangible improvements within a reasonable timeframe.

Submitter 224 is concerned that the proposed standards note there are implications for national policy making but guidance on how national, regional and local policies may be co-ordinated is not provided. The submitter seeks more detailed discussion on how the standards and vehicle policy interact.

Submitter 226 supports the aim of having a package of mandatory "bottom-line" regulations that apply nationally to achieve the objectives, but comments that the standards need to be soundly researched, consistent with existing regional plans and address motor vehicles. The submitter questions the research basis for the standards and considers that they should be based on high-quality, defensible and transparent scientific research.

Submitter 226 also seeks explicit recognition of the fact that regional guidelines/standards for air quality and particular activities already exist, and that guidance needs to be provided on how the different standards will interact in practice.

Submitter 226 is concerned that implementation fails to address motor vehicle emissions and considers that the objectives in section 1.3 will not be met until fuel quality and motor vehicle emissions are dealt with. The submitter is concerned that the standards continue to focus on point source emissions and that the industrial sector will be penalised as a result of the standards when they are already well controlled.

Submitter 227 supports the development of national environmental standards for air quality but is opposed to them in their current form because there is no visible information to justify the proposals. The submitter is concerned about the unexplained departure from the 2002 Guidelines and considers that the three- to four-year timeframe for implementation is unachievable. The submitter is also concerned that the standards are not equitable and asks who will bear the cost? The submitter asks that standards be developed based on visible robust analysis so that they are not arbitrary, and that plans be prepared at a regional level to implement the standards.

Submitter 227 is concerned about the level of consultation and asks that the consultation process be reviewed to be more inclusive and provide an opportunity to be heard, consistent with the processes under the RMA.

Submitters 228 and 229 support the standards and the four-year timeframe for implementation.