Working to improve air quality in our region

Community and Public Health provides a supporting role to Environment Canterbury for monitoring and policy responses to ambient air quality issues and improvements.

Environment Canterbury is responsible for monitoring of Canterbury air quality.

Ministry for the Environment develops national indicators and strategies on air quality.

Report shows New Zealand air quality is good

Ministry for the Environment media release: 18th October 2018

An environmental report produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ shows that air quality in New Zealand is generally good.

‘Our Air 2018’ shows that progress has been made and levels of some pollutants are declining, while some previously known issues persist.

“The report shows that using wood and coal burners to heat homes in winter continues to cause issues in some places. This remains the largest single cause of human-generated poor air quality in New Zealand,” Government Statistician Liz MacPherson said. “The report also shows vehicle emissions as a leading cause of poor air quality in some places.”

“However information from monitoring sites shows levels of some particulate matters have decreased over the past decade. This is a welcome sign, as is the resulting slight improvement in overall health outcomes,” Ms MacPherson said.

“This report paints a series of separate pictures. The overall news is good, but we still have some specific issues to address. Progress is being made with those but there’s more to do,” Deputy Secretary at the Ministry for the Environment Amanda Moran said.

Air pollution and air quality in New Zealand

New Zealand research suggests that ambient air pollution is responsible for an estimated 970 premature deaths each year in people over 30 years of age, approximately 400 of which are from vehicle emissions. Fine particles are produced in the combustion of fuel pose greater health risks than previously thought – these are known as PM10 and PM2.5. Harmful gases also affect air quality such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, benzene and nitrogen dioxide.

There are several different sources of air pollution:

  • Burning wood, coal, gas, diesel or other materials for home heating such as domestic fires are the main contributor to ambient air pollution in many parts of New Zealand.
  • Cars, buses, off-road vehicles, trucks, planes and diesel trains produce exhaust containing fine particles and other air pollutants. Traffic can also create dust.
  • Many industrial processes release air pollutants as well as burning wood, coal, gas, diesel or other materials for heating commercial or public buildings like schools and hospitals.
  • Natural sources include wind-blown dust, pollen, sea salt, volcanic ash and bio-aerosols.

Sources of air pollution: natural sources, outdoor burning, home heating, indoor sources, traffic and industrial. Source: LAWA website.

Children, elderly people and those with respiratory diseases are more vulnerable to air pollution and areas of high deprivation have greater excess mortality from air pollution. The infographic below shows the health impacts of the common air pollutants.
Find out more about the health effects of some common air pollutants (Ministry for the Environment).

Examples of the health effects of air pollution. Source: Ministry for the Environment.



Contact your local CPH office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6125

Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091

Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169

For additional information, contact:

ECAN Winter Air Pollution Forecast
Ph: +64 3 353 9004

Trend towards cleaner and healthier air in Canterbury continues

Environment Canterbury media release: 31st August 2018

Six of Canterbury’s eight airsheds have met the government’s health-based guidelines so far this year – compared to four last year. Timaru and Christchurch are the only two airsheds that did not meet guidelines this year.

Environment Canterbury Chair Steve Lowndes says this positive result shows the initiatives in the Air Plan and the plan that came before it, are working.

“The trend towards cleaner, healthier air in our urban communities is continuing. Thank you to thousands of Cantabrians who have upgraded to cleaner heating technology and to those who have been burning with no visible smoke from their chimneys,” he said. “Changes to air quality do not happen overnight, but we are moving in the right direction and we are confident the initiatives in the Air Plan will help us see further progress over time.”

Air pollution can be an issue in Canterbury’s urban centres, mainly during the coldest months. The National Environmental Standards for Air Quality allow no more than one high pollution day per year in Rangiora, Geraldine and Washdyke, and no more than three high pollution days per year in Kaiapoi, Christchurch, Ashburton, Timaru and Waimate.

Canterbury Regional Air Plan

Community and Public Health has a joint work plan with Environment Canterbury around common areas of interest, including air quality.

One example of this collaboration was the review of the Regional Air Plan. A joint Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Air Plan was done to assess the potential impact of proposed plan changes on population health.

The HIA revealed that air quality is closely linked with housing, heating, and energy use, and these factors need to be considered when dealing with unintended health consequences. The HIA recommendations included the carefully phased introduction of home heating changes along with supporting measures, such as targeted heating and insulation subsidies.

LAWA: Land Air Water Aotearoa.

Page last updated: 18/10/2018

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