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Tackling air pollution in Rotorua city

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Tackling air pollution in Rotorua city

For immediate release: Monday 10 October 2005

Air pollution in Rotorua city is so concerning that the city has been granted special status to ensure an improvement within eight years.

The Ministry for the Environment recently set new national standards based on the levels of particulate matter in air. Particulate matter (PM10) is the very small particles suspended in air. It is generally created by poor combustion in vehicles and by wood-burning fires. High levels can have serious health effects, including respiratory problems.

Environment Bay of Plenty monitoring shows that air quality in Rotorua city regularly exceeds the new air quality standard. Because of this, the regional council is required by the Government to designate the urban area as a Local Air Management Area.

Environment Bay of Plenty’s group manager regulation and resource management Paul Dell says the classification means the council has to find ways to reduce PM10 levels to the required standard by 2013.

However, the first step is to find the true source of the problem, he explains. “Many factors may be involved and we need to investigate what they are before we go any further.” The cause may be inefficient wood burners, which are a key source of PM10. But it may also be related to the colder weather in Rotorua or the geography of the city. “Because it sits in a caldera, the air can’t blow away easily as it does on the coast.”

Environment Bay of Plenty will be setting up a working group of community representatives to give “local voice” to the project. Mr Dell says this input will be very important later, when coming up with solutions to the problem. Possible solutions might involve community education, incentives for high-efficiency wood burners, the promotion of alternative types of heating, or regulation.

Tauranga city was the only other area in the Bay of Plenty to be considered for classification as a Local Air Management Area. “We had some concerns with Tauranga’s levels,” Mr Dell says. ‘However, they are related more to vehicles, exceeding the limits at peak-traffic times of the day. As a regional council, we have no powers to deal with that issue. It needs to be done at national level.”

The new national air quality regulations, which came into effect in September, also set new standards of efficiency for new wood burners being installed in New Zealand. It applies to both new homes and if people want to upgrade their current wood burner. However, it does not apply to existing wood burners or if a property is larger than two hectares.

ENDS

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