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Government launders dirty air

Government launders dirty air

Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today rejected the Government's proposed National Environmental Standard (NES) for air quality, saying they would actually reduce the air quality standards in the two cities that need the most protection - Auckland and Christchurch.

The proposed NES would undermine the air quality plans developed by the Auckland Regional Council and Environment Canterbury to combat significant health risks posed by the poor air quality in Auckland and Christchurch, respectively.

"Auckland and Christchurch have set the benchmark for air quality standards in New Zealand - now the Government is seeking to make these standards worse," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"Air quality is a huge health concern that is believed to be responsible for 400 deaths every year in Auckland alone.

"It's time the Government got serious about this by setting responsible standards that actually improve the situation, not allow it to get worse."

Ms Fitzsimons said allowances for fine particulate material, the pollutant of most concern in urban areas, were simply unacceptable. She was concerned that the proposed Standard: * allows the concentration of fine particulates to be up to 2½ times what is currently allowed for up to five occasions each year. * continues to use the current interim standard for fine particulates of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air - although this 'interim' level is known to be too high to protect human health. * does not measure chronic exposure. It would set limits on pollutant levels tested over one, eight and 24-hour periods but nothing over a yearly or even weekly period.

"The World Health Organisation has said that there is no safe limit for fine particulates, yet this Government seems prepared to accept dangerously high levels of these pollutants. This is totally irresponsible.

"The national air quality standards as they are proposed are inadequate and must be strengthened if they are to have a positive effect on the health of New Zealanders.

"The Government should apply the higher standards, towards which Auckland and Christchurch are moving, across the whole country. We need to raise the standard, not lower it," said Ms Fitzsimons.

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