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New air pollution monitors for councils

Hon Marian Hobbs
Minister for the Environment

26 July 2005 Media Statement

New air pollution monitors for councils

The Ministry for the Environment has spent more than $800,000 on new air quality monitors for regional councils, the Environment Minister Marian Hobbs announced today.

From September 1, regional councils and unitary authorities will have to monitor air quality where it is likely that national environmental standards will be exceeded in a particular area, or airshed.

"The new monitors are expensive, so the ministry has helped councils upgrade or increase their monitoring," Marian Hobbs said. "Fifteen of the 16 regional councils and unitary authorities applied for funding, and the ministry was able to help them all."

Fourteen national environmental air quality standards, anounced last year, will ensure healthy air for all New Zealanders. They include five outdoor air standards and a new standard for wood burners in urban areas.

"The standards were introduced because local government and industry asked for them, and the government worked with councils for more than two years to find the most practical way to meet the standards," Marian Hobbs said.

Councils will be focussing on fine particles that are less than 10 microns in diameter, often called PM10. The target for the fine air particle standard is no more than 50 micrograms of fine particles per cubic metre of air over 24 hours. Councils have until 2013 to clean up polluted air so that it meets the 50 microgram target.

A micron, or micrometre, is one millionth of a metre, or less than one fiftieth of a human hair across.

Most of the fine particles come from smoke from open fires or poorly-performing wood or coal burners used for home heating. In parts of Auckland the problem is vehicle emissions.

"Councils need sophisticated equipment to monitor air quality continuously to ensure they are meeting the standard," Marian Hobbs said.

"Some councils have also identified airsheds they do not monitor currently, but which may exceed the standards."

Measurements have shown that in recent years the standard has been exceeded at 36 locations throughout New Zealand. In the most polluted areas, such as Christchurch, Alexandra, Nelson, Richmond, Timaru, Tokoroa and Masterton, the level is exceeded regularly over winter.

Sixteen fine particle monitors went to 12 regional councils, with Northland, Southland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty getting two each. These are full packages including installation so that councils can start using them as soon as they arrive.

"Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council are receiving two sophisticated meteorological stations each to enable them to understand the behaviour of fine particles over a complex topography," Marian Hobbs added. "Environment Canterbury is receiving help in computer modeling of the air around Christchurch."

Until recently, many councils have used high volume samplers to monitor PM10 fine particle levels, but these use a filter that has to be manually changed every day. Because of this they are normally run only one day in three, often only during winter.

"Councils need to monitor air quality continuously in order to track whether they are meeting the standards. This funding will allow them to start monitoring accurately once the new standards come into effect, at little or no extra cost to rate payers," Marian Hobbs said.

ENDS

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