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Air quality problems spark guidelines review

23 January 2001 Media Statement

Air quality problems spark guidelines review

The Ministry for the Environment is reviewing air quality guidelines to make them more stringent, the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, said today.

"We tend to think that New Zealand’s air is mostly pure and healthy to breathe," Ms Hobbs said. "In truth, the quality of our air is not as good as we'd like, and in some places pollution levels are bad enough to harm people's health and the environment.

"Air pollution in Auckland can be worse than in London with levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide regularly exceeding World Health Organisation guidelines. Smog levels in Christchurch sometimes rival those in the worst polluted cities in the world."

Revised guidelines will set robust national targets that promote action to improve air quality and provide equal and adequate protection for people and the environment throughout New Zealand, the Minister said.

The national air quality guideline values, developed by the Ministry for the Environment in 1994, are the minimum requirements that outdoor air quality should meet in order to protect human health and the environment. Where air pollution levels breach guideline values, emissions reduction strategies should be developed to improve air quality.

As a part of its review of the guidelines, the Ministry for the Environment released a discussion document  Proposals for new and revised ambient air quality guidelines  in January. The discussion document sets out the proposed national direction for managing air quality.

Councils and others involved in managing air quality have used the guidelines to better understand monitoring results, direct policies and to decide on resource consent applications.

The guidelines outline how councils can manage air quality under the Resource Management Act, as well as managing air contaminants including: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, sulphur dioxide, ozone, fluoride, lead and hydrogen sulphide.

As much of our air pollution problems come from common sources such as open fires and vehicle exhaust, everybody needs to take responsibility and play a part in helping reduce emissions where they cause a problem, Ms Hobbs said.

"We need to discuss the impacts of air pollution with local communities and to encourage them to think about how they can make a difference to improve air quality," she added.

"This is their opportunity to discuss air quality issues with the Ministry for the Environment and express their views on the recommended national direction."

Copies of the report and a summary fact sheet can be obtained from the Ministry for the Environment's web site at

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