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Air quality standards to be reviewed

Hon Dr Nick Smith
Minister for the Environment

10 June 2009
Media Statement

Air quality standards to be reviewed

New Zealand’s air quality standards need reviewing to ensure they are practical and achievable, Environment Minister Nick Smith announced today

Dr Smith today released the terms of reference and technical advisory group for a review of the national environmental standards for particulate air pollution under the Resource Management Act. The review delivers on National’s pre-election commitment and on concerns raised at the Jobs Summit.

“We are at the halfway mark between when the standards were set in 2005 and when they must be complied with by 2013 so it makes good sense to review progress. Air quality is critical to New Zealanders health and our clean green reputation. We are committed to ongoing improvements but want to ensure we have the policy and timetable right.

“We are making good progress in many parts of New Zealand in reducing air pollution but there are 10 cities and towns including Auckland and Christchurch that are unlikely to meet the standards by 2013.

“The implications for industry and employment are very serious as no renewed or new consents are allowed in air catchments where the standard is not met by 2013.

“The review needs to look at whether it is fair to solely punish industry for non-compliance when the overwhelming pollution is caused by home fires and, to a lesser degree, vehicles. It will also look at the costs and benefits of the air standard and the optimal timetable for achieving improvements.

“It also needs to take into account the Government’s significant $323 million commitment to home insulation and clean heating grants to assist Councils and households reduce energy waste and pollution.”

1. Technical Advisory Group members and biographies
2. Summary of the Terms of Reference

1. Technical Advisory Group members and biographies
Phil Barry – Chair of the Technical Advisory Group
Mr Barry is a Director at Taylor Duignan Barry, an independent consultancy that provides corporate finance and economic advice. Mr Barry holds an MBA from the University of Rochester, New York and a BA (Hons) 1st class in economics from the Victoria University of Wellington. Mr Barry has previously worked for both the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Treasury. Mr Barry held the post of Director for the Asset and Liability Management Branch at Treasury from 1996 and 1988. Mr Barry is an economist with strengths in both negotiation and analytical skills and experience in water allocation issues, competition policy issues and national cost benefit analyses. Mr Barry provides strong economic expertise for the group.

Lawrence Yule
Mr Yule is the president of Local Government New Zealand and has been Mayor of Hastings District Council since 2001. Mr Yule has particular interest in the air quality standards due to cost concerns with the proposed Hawkes Bay Regional Council proposed plan changes. Mr Yule brings a territorial authority and ratepayers’ perspective to the group.

Kevin Mahon
Mr Mahon is the Air Quality Policy Manager at the Auckland Regional Council with more than 27 years experience in industrial air quality consents under the Clean Air Act 1972 and the Resource Management Act 1991. Mr Mahon is well versed in both the technical aspects as well as the practical implications of the regulations. Mr Mahon is further knowledgeable about transport issues that affect Auckland air quality. Mr Mahon brings a technical regional council perspective to the group.

Dr Deborah Read
Dr Deborah Read is a public health medicine consultant and is qualified in the area of public and environmental health and health risk assessment. Dr Read is currently a part time Medical Officer of Health for the Hutt Valley District Board and a public health medicine consultant. She has been Deputy Chair of the Medical Council since 2002, and a member of the Environmental Risk Management Authority since 2006. Dr Read is also Chair of the Ministry of Health’s Organochlorines Technical Advisory Group and has just finished an appointment to the Board of Inquiry for the Upper North Island Grid Upgrade proposal. Dr Read provides public heath expertise to the group.

Kevin Rolfe
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Canterbury, a Masters of Applied Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Melbourne as well as multiple certificates in financial, management and economics areas. Kevin has first hand experience with the air quality standards as applied through his recent work as a Commissioner for a resource consent application in Nelson. Kevin has also previously worked in the public health arena with his appointment as an air quality management specialist to the World Health Organisation in Kuala Lumpur. Kevin provides significant air quality expertise to the group.

2. Summary of the Terms of Reference
Regulation to be reviewed:
Regulations 13 – 19 and Schedule 1 of the Resource Management (National Standards Relating to Certain Air Pollutants, Dioxins and other Toxics) Regulations 2004
Specific objectives for the review:
To review the PM10 regulations in the air quality standards to ensure they provide the maximum net benefit to New Zealanders taking into account the economic, social and environmental benefits and costs of air pollution.

In Scope

The review will determine the following.

How much are the regulations relating to PM10 costing? This should include economic costs (i.e. costs of implementation), and health and social costs both prior to and post 2013.

Who is bearing these costs?

What are the benefits of the regulations relating to PM10 prior to 2013 and post 2013 (including economic, health and social benefits)?

Who is experiencing these benefits?

How do the actual costs and benefits differ from the original cost-benefit analysis? Why?

Are the regulations relating to PM10 effective? This could include, but not be limited to:

What difference have they made?

Were they necessary?

Are the resource consent restrictions working? (i.e. have they been an effective driver of regional policy to improve air quality since the introduction of the standards). If not, what can/should central government do about it?

Is the 2013 deadline appropriate? (The standards limit consent for industrial discharges but the primary source of pollution is domestic heating in most urban areas). If not, what are the alternatives?

Should we extend the deadline to some future date (with associated analysis of costs and benefits)? This could include increasing the number of permitted exceedances of the PM10 ambient standard (e.g. five exceedances). NB: The actual ambient standards (i.e. concentration thresholds) are not under review.

Should we amend the 2013 deadline and use other methods to encourage regional councils to meet the standards? For example:

Fines for non-achievement of ambient standards based on estimated health impacts.

Sanctions and Minister approved action plans for areas of non-attainment similar to US approach.

Out of Scope

The original objectives of the PM10 regulations in the air quality standards were:

Provision of greater certainty for industry by providing a “level-playing field” that clarifies environmental expectations prior to the resource consent process;

Support for the protection of public health and the environment by providing a bottom-line standard that shall not be breached; and

Provision of greater certainty in resource consent decision-making and regional plan preparation at the local level.

These policy objectives are still government priorities and are considered fit for purpose. Any fundamental review of these objectives is out of scope
Quality assurance mechanism
The review will be informed by an independent report prepared by a technical advisory group. I will appoint this technical advisory group to invite written submissions from key stakeholders including:


Local government

Public health units of the district health boards

Central government agencies with portfolio responsibilities relating to air quality and public health

Being limited to the PM10 regulations within the air quality standards, the review is independent of other regulatory reviews that are underway.

Project Phases/Estimated Dates
Agree terms of reference, appoint technical advisory group/May - July 2009
Tender updates to cost benefit analysis and health modelling/May 2009
Undertake update to cost benefit analysis and health modelling/June - July 2009
Environment Protection Directorate set up within the Ministry for the Environment
Appoint MfE project team/1 July 2009
Technical advisory group to review PM10 regulations of the air quality standards/July - September 2009
Technical advisory group report to Minister for the Environment/October 2009
Report back to Cabinet on outcomes of review/February 2010


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