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SMC Bulletin - The state of NZ's air quality

The state of NZ's air quality
The Ministry for the Environment’s latest environmental report shows that air quality in New Zealand is generally good, but some issues persist

Released yesterday, the report is a synthesis of data on air quality, pollutants and quality-of-life impacts. Wood and coal burners continue to be a major cause of poor air quality, but the report also highlights gaps in our data, including for PM2.5 and methyl bromide.

GNS Science air particulate specialist Dr Bill Trompetter said the report highlighted that while we spend 80 to 90 per cent of our time indoors, we know little about indoor air quality in New Zealand.

Preliminary results from GNS Science research has supported overseas studies that "outdoor air pollution does indeed find its way indoors," Dr Trompetter said. "Particularly the smaller, more harmful particles from wood fires and vehicle combustion sources."

"At the same time, we have found that air pollution generated indoors, mainly from cooking and household dust, adds to this to generate high particle concentrations that are inhaled indoors. Therefore, individual exposures may be higher than outdoor air monitoring suggests, with a consequent greater impact on our health outcomes.”

The report also touched on light pollution and its impact on wildlife and our ability to view the night sky. Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin welcomed the report, which he said provided an important baseline for future measurements of light pollution.

"While it is encouraging to note that, when measured in 2014, 74 per cent by land area of the North Island and 93 per cent by land area of the South Island were minimally impacted by light pollution, as most New Zealanders live in cities, it has been estimated that over half of New Zealanders are unable to see the Milky Way.

"A generation of Kiwis is growing up potentially disconnected from the beauty of night sky."

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.

Quoted: Farmers Weekly
"Based on what we know at the moment I can’t see any reason for the current state of play to change."
University of Otago toxicologist Dr Belinda Cridge on the use of glyphosate, used in pesticides including Roundup.

Top researchers honoured
Exceptional New Zealand researchers were acknowledged at Research Honours Aotearoa in Wellington on Wednesday.

Royal Society Te Apārangi, which hosted the event, handed out 21 medals and awards and the Health Research Council presented three awards.
The top award, the Rutherford Medal, was awarded to Professor Rod Downey of Victoria University of Wellington for his revolutionary research into mathematical logic and computer science.

His work has been applied to efforts as varied as studying aboriginal children in Australia, reconstructing the "tree of life", understanding the evolution of European languages, and even designing better ways to distribute donated food to charities, the NZ Herald reported.
"There's this wondrous wholeness of mathematics, that as soon as you understand something well enough, it leads into other things and that's what good science is about," he told 1 News.

In addition to the medal, he received a $100,000 prize from the Government.

The Callaghan Medal for science communication was awarded to Dr Helen Taylor from the University of Otago for her work around conservation genetics and threatened species.

One of her initiatives, ‘The Great Hihi Sperm Race’, raised more than $11,000 for hihi conservation and drew supporters from 17 countries, spreading the message about potential fertility problems for inbred birds.
For the first time, the Society issued an award for contribution to Te Ao Māori and indigenous knowledge – named the Te Puāwaitanga Award, given to Professor Linda Tuhiwai-Smith of the University of Waikato.
The Health Research Council of New Zealand also introduced a new award, Te Tohu Rapuora, for Māori health excellence and leadership, which was given to the Te Kotahi Research Institute of the University of Waikato.

Associate Professor Pitama, of Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Whare, was awarded the Metge Medal for her influence on indigenous health education and Lisa Matisoo-Smith has been awarded the Mason Durie Medal for her research on human migration into the Pacific. Both women are from the University of Otago.

The full list of winners is on the society's website.

Get Science Media SAVVY
Our final two-day science media training workshop for the year will be held in Wellington next month.

Applications close in just over a week for our flagship media training, being held in November.
Wellington, Royal Society Te Apārangi
22-23rd November
Our experienced facilitators provide a supportive environment for researchers to consider their work from different perspectives and find new ways to describe the value of their research to the public.

Ideally suited for researchers with previous media experience seeking further development of their skills, as well as beginners anticipating media interest in their work. Applications close 29 October.

Policy news & developments

Business advisors: The Prime Minister has announced the members of her Business Advisory Council, which includes Rocket Lab's Peter Beck.

Energy in NZ: Energy demand has increased slightly and renewable electricity generation remained above 80 per cent in 2017, according to MBIE's latest annual energy report.

Antiretroviral proposal: PHARMAC is seeking feedback on a proposal to make changes to the funding of antiretroviral therapies used in the treatment of HIV infection.

Whio success: A record number of 55 whio ducklings hatched in the 2017-18 season in the Oparara Whio security site on the West Coast.

Track closures: More tracks will be closed to limit the spread of kauri dieback, including tracks in Kaitaia, the Kauri Coast, Whangārei, Hauraki, Waikato, and Tauranga and on Aotea/Great Barrier Island.

Tahr control: DOC was set to begin tahr control this week after the release of its operational plan. However, the operation has been put on hold following the death of two DOC staff in a helicopter accident in Wanaka.

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