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New air quality standards begin clearing our air

Hon Marian Hobbs
Minister for the Environment

31 August 2005 Media Statement

New air quality standards begin clearing our air

New national environmental standards, designed to improve air quality and health for all, come into effect tomorrow [1 September], Environment Minister Marian Hobbs said.

"This is a great day for the health of New Zealanders. The six new Ministry for the Environment standards will make a real difference – significantly cutting pollution and saving lives," Marian Hobbs said.

Research shows pollution causes a range of preventable health problems including respiratory illnesses, asthma attacks, reduced immunity, hospitalisations and premature deaths.

A key standard requires regional councils to reduce pollution from fine particles (ie smoke) to a set level by 2013 in our towns and cities. Fine particles are the most concerning air pollutant, as they cause the most significant health problems.

"Research suggests more people in New Zealand die prematurely from fine particle pollution than are killed on our roads," Marian Hobbs said. "We need to start action now, particularly to protect our most vulnerable citizens – our children and the elderly."

To help meet the fine particle standard, a new design standard for domestic wood burners also takes effect today, greatly reducing the amount of fine particles new wood burners can produce in urban areas.

The other standards set maximum levels for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide in outdoor air, to protect public health.

From 1 September 2005, regional councils and unitary authorities must monitor air quality and publicly report whenever the air in their regions exceeds the standards. The councils are then expected to make a plan for improvement, showing what they will do to fully comply by 2013.

The ministry has invested more than $800,000 in new air quality monitors to help councils gather accurate information.

It is up to councils how they achieve the targets. They have the flexibility to focus on the air quality issues in their area that particularly need improvement.

ENDS

Background:

- The six standards are among the first 14 national environmental standards for New Zealand, all relating to air quality. The first seven came into effect last October, and included banning the burning of tyres and oil in the open; and a new design standard for the collection and destruction of landfill gas. The remaining standard, banning school and hospital incinerators unless they have resource consent, comes into effect in October 2006.

- The fine particle standard coming into effect today requires councils to clean up the air by 1 September 2013 to the target level of 50 micrograms of fine particles per cubic metre of air over any daily 24-hour period.

- Councils can allow for offsets – where a company applying for resource consent to emit fine particles can offset or reduce overall pollution in that area. Examples of offsets include modernising bus fleets, fitting catalytic converters to buses or council vehicles or replacing open fires with cleaner burning alternatives.

- To help New Zealanders reduce the effects of home heating on the environment while staying warm, the Ministry for the Environment is working with a range of central and local government agencies. The Warm Homes project is investigating how families can be encouraged to install cleaner heating and make their homes more energy efficient – in an affordable way.

- Central and local government are running a Warm Homes trial in Tokoroa – fully insulating and installing cleaner heating in 18 houses, and measuring the real life emissions. The trial results will help determine how a national Warm Homes scheme may be framed up.


For more information including questions and answers, go to the national environmental standards page on the Ministry for the Environment website at:
www.mfe.govt.nz/laws/standards/index.html

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