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Changes needed to Air Quality Standard

Changes needed to Air Quality Standard

Hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs will be put at risk if changes are not made to the unrealistic and unfair air quality standard adopted by the previous Government, Environment Minister Nick Smith says.

Dr Smith today released a discussion document proposing amendments to the National Air Quality Standard.

“The existing standard of only one exceedance a year is unrealistic and would require banning home log burners and industries in communities where air quality is generally very good. This decision by the previous Government was against the Environment Ministry’s recommendation of five exceedances per year,” Dr Smith said.

“The Technical Advisory Group has recommended the standard be increased from one to three exceedances a year, which is consistent with the World Health Organisation Air Quality Standard. This still means substantial work will be required in 15 airsheds covering 45% of New Zealand’s population where exceedances are as high as 91 per year.

“The existing standard is also unfair in severely punishing businesses when the vast bulk of pollution comes from home fires and motor vehicles. The current regulations prohibit any new consents or consent renewals for industry after 2013 in airsheds that exceed the standard which the Ministry for the Environment estimates would put at risk 233 businesses employing more than 17,000 staff. We are proposing putting forward the date to a more realistic 2018 and a compliance regime that does not unfairly penalise business.

”These changes are about improving air quality but in a pragmatic and realistic way. It will ensure we do not put thousands of jobs at risk or unnecessarily ban home burners and open fires in areas with only occasional air quality problems.”

An independent Technical Advisory Group established by the Government in June last year reviewed the air quality standard and recommended it be changed. The review was a National Party election promise and a key initiative out of last year’s Job Summit.

“I am today releasing this advice and the Government’s proposals for amendments to the air quality standard. This includes requiring mandatory public reporting by councils. This would allow me as Minister to monitor progress in problem areas, and if none is being made, use my powers under the Resource Management Act to force action by councils. The Government wants a standard that achieves material improvements in air quality without imposing unnecessary costs on businesses and communities.

“This proposal sees central government setting a credible baseline standard but provides enough flexibility for councils to find local solutions to local problems. We look forward to public submissions on the discussion document by 9 July 2010 before making any final decisions.”

ENDS

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