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1 Introduction

In 2004, the Ministry for the Environment gazetted the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards Relating to Certain Air Pollutants, Dioxins and Other Toxics) Regulations 2004 (Including Amendments 2005) (the regulations). The regulations include five key provisions:

  • ambient air quality standards for five pollutants

  • a requirement for regional councils to monitor air quality and report any breaches of the ambient standards to the public

  • restrictions on the granting of resource consents for industrial emissions in polluted areas

  • design standards for new wood burners and large landfills

  • a list of banned activities (to limit emissions of toxic compounds, including dioxins).

Regional councils are responsible for implementing the regulations. Given that 2008 was halfway to the 2013 deadline it was considered timely to review the implementation of the regulations to highlight any risk areas early and to permit time to work with councils towards compliance.

1.1 Review methodology

The Ministry undertook the review of regional council implementation of the regulations on a cooperative basis. We:

  • notified the Chief Executive Environment Forum of our intention to undertake the review in April 2008

  • discussed the review with all councils through their National Air Quality Working Group (NAQWG) representatives in May 2008,1 and obtained staff input into the review’s design by preparing a review protocol and requesting feedback on this protocol

  • visited each council in person throughout June, July and August 2008 and conducted interviews with nominated staff with the aim of reviewing all factors that affect implementation (as opposed to focusing simply on compliance)

  • used the opportunity of visiting each council to share information on best practice and central government assistance programmes

  • recorded council interviews in draft form initially to permit time for review and further comment; council responses were finalised within two to four weeks of each visit.

In addition, the Ministry carefully structured the review to:

  • identify any barriers and/or risks to successful implementation of the regulations

  • provide sufficient context for other factors affecting air quality management (eg, staff resourcing, other council commitments)

  • recommend, where feasible, how the Ministry can provide assistance and/or leadership towards compliance.

Appendix 1 contains a copy of the review protocol.

A draft report was prepared in September 2008 and posted on the NAQWG website for comment. The draft report was then presented to the NAQWG meeting in November 2008. Council comments were received up to January 2009, and the report was finalised in March 2009.

1.2 Review results

Council interviews are summarised in appendix 2 and discussed in the remainder of this report. The following section discusses key air quality issues for New Zealand as well as region-specific contextual information relevant to air quality management.

Key air quality issues

In 2008, New Zealand’s key air quality issue was winter-time pollution in urban areas. This winter-time pollution is due to PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter) emissions from solid-fuel domestic combustion (ie, home heating). The New Zealand ambient PM10 standard is 50 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), as measured over 24 hours, with one exceedance permitted per year. Ambient air quality has breached this standard in all regions of New Zealand except three (Gisborne District Council, Horizons Regional Council, and Taranaki Regional Council).

Table 1 summarises the top 10 worst polluted airsheds in New Zealand.

Table 1: Top 10 polluted airsheds in New Zealanda

Ranking Airshed Regional council 2nd highest concentrationb (µg/m3) Number annual exceedances
PM10 standard = 50 µg/m3 with 1 exceedance permitted per year
1 Alexandra Otago 130 46
2 Christchurch Canterbury 172 27
3 Nelson Nelson 108 51
4 Timaru Canterbury 130 36
5 Kaiapoi Canterbury 145 28
6 Rotorua Bay of Plenty 112 24
7 Richmond Tasman 111 21
8 Ashburton Canterbury 104 23
9 Tokoroa Waikato 83 33
10 Hastings Hawke’s Bay 114 18

a Ranking is based on data from 2005/06 (with additional data from 2007 where available) and considers both second-highest concentration and maximum number of exceedances. The methodology for ranking was provided to EECA and all regional councils in April 2008.

b The regulations permit 1 exceedance of the PM10 standard each year.

Region-specific air quality issues

The following regions face unique or special challenges with respect to air quality management that are worth noting:

In addition, at the time this report was being prepared there was a Royal Commission of Inquiry into local governance in Auckland. At that time the Auckland Regional Council reported problems in its relationships with territorial authorities in the region.


1  The National Air Quality Working Group comprises technical staff from all regional councils and unitary authorities, as well as the following central government agencies: Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Health, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, New Zealand Transport Agency, and Ministry of Education.