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Direction for cleaner, healthier air adopted

The Waikato Regional Council has adopted an organisational strategy that provides guidance to staff on the actions required to improve air quality in the Waikato region.

The policy and strategy committee adopted the Waikato Regional Council Air Quality Strategy last Wednesday 23 November.

The strategy has a particular emphasis on PM10, particles invisible to the human eye which are emitted primarily by wood burning fires. PM10 causes a range of health problems for people.

Committee chairperson Paula Southgate said: “Poor air quality impacts public health, and has associated social and economic impacts. Via this strategy, the council aims to have all parts of the region complying with the national environmental standards for air quality.”

Currently Tokoroa, Taupo, Te Kuiti and Putaruru do not comply with national environmental standards. To meet the standards, the number of PM10 exceedances in Tokoroa each year needs to drop to three or less by 2016, and one exceedance by 2020. The town has had 16 exceedances in 2011, and the same number in 2010. Taupo, Te Kuiti and Putaruru will need to drop to one exceedance per year by 2016.

Waikato Regional Council programme manager Leanne Perry-Meyer said: “A key part of the strategy’s approach is to work in partnership with district councils. We approached local authorities throughout the region for their feedback before the strategy was adopted, and the feedback was supportive of its direction.”

Central government have recommended actions for councils, in their August 2011compliance strategy for meeting the PM10 standard. Ms Perry-Meyer said that the Waikato Regional Council was already undertaking many of these recommended actions.

“We are working with South Waikato District Council on a range of initiatives to help reach air quality targets. We’ve funded clean heat replacements in Tokoroa and other non-complying airsheds for a number of years, as well as providing an education programme.

The public will have a chance to have their say on how aspects of the strategy might be implemented by making a submission on the 2012-2022 Long Term Plan in March to April 2012.

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