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National environmental standards approved


National environmental standards approved

The government has approved the first ever national environmental standards aimed at air quality and controlling landfill gas emissions.


The government has approved the first ever national environmental standards aimed at air quality and controlling landfill gas emissions, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

" Approving these standards demonstrates the Labour-led government's commitment to a clean environment and to making the Resource Management Act work," Marian Hobbs said. "Clean air is essential for the health of both the public and the environment. National Environmental Standards are also a key tool under the Resource Management Act.

"The improvement in air quality from these standards is expected to save 625 lives by 2020. This is a major health achievement.

"These are the first dards to be introduced since the RMA was passed 13 years ago. Nine of those years were under a National Government, which did nothing to introduce them.

"The 14 standards will also help improve the operation of the RMA, introducing a level-playing field for decisions under the act. The standards will replace previous guidelines, introduced in 1994 and updated by the Labour-led government in 2002, and will become law by regulation under the RMA. They will provide consistency and certainty for councils and decision makers, industry and the community."

There are seven standards for dioxins and other toxics, five for ambient (outdoor) air quality, one for the design of new wood burners in urban areas, and one requiring landfills to collect and destroy their greenhouse gas emissions.

"There has been real public concern around dioxins and toxics," Marian Hobbs said. "This government made a commitment to develop standards to deal with these toxics and now it has d activities that release unacceptable levels of dioxins and other toxics into the air, such as landfill fires, bitumen burning on roads, and the open burning of tyres, oil and insulated wire."

The standards are based on comprehensive consultation, research and scientific evidence and were developed by the Environment Ministry in consultation with local government, business and the community.

"The vast majority of submissions supported the standards and a number of changes were made as a result of consultation. In particular, we have addressed concerns around implementation and enforcement, and specific technical issues," Marian Hobbs said.
"The Ministry for the Environment is working with local government on implementation programmes to achieve the standards."

The first of the standards comes into effect this October, banning specific activities that discharge dioxins and other toxics to air. From September 2005, the design standard for new wood burners in om October 2006, school and hospital incinerators will be banned unless they obtain resource consent. The timing of the standards allows transition for individuals and businesses affected.

The ambient air quality standards set a maximum level for the amount of fine particles, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone in the air.

"This will be good news for people suffering the effects of poor air quality," the minister said. "Research tells us that when levels of these particles and gases are high, there is a related increase in hospital admissions for respiratory illness. It's simply not good enough that air pollution affects our daily life in this way and the standards will address this."

Marian Hobbs said regional councils are responsible for managing the air in their regions.

"Now they will have a set level of air quality to achieve or improve on - and there is flexibility in how they can meet the standards. From October next to monitor and publicly report on air quality levels and if and when the standards are exceeded. Locations that exceed the ambient standards will need to trend towards improvement by 2013.

"From 2013, no resource consent can be granted to discharge fine particles to air in areas that still exceed the outdoor air quality standards."

Marian Hobbs said the government recognised that in many urban areas the major source of air pollution was home heating. One of the environmental standards deals with the design of new home wood burners in urban areas.

"The ministry is leading a project to find out how we can help more families make home energy efficiency improvements and install cleaner heating sources," she said.

Developing national environmental standards for air quality and water quality are one of the key actions of the government's Sustainable Development Programme of Action.

For a graph showing the average level of fine particles and the n ssions in Christchurch (1988-98) go to:
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/air/nes-air-standards-analysis/html/figure1.html
For the report "Proposed National Environmental Standards for Air Quality, Resource Management Act Section 32, Analysis of the costs and benefits" go to:
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/air/nes-air-standards-analysis/nes-air-standards.pdf

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