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Published: 2007-07-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has taken another key step towards ensuring air quality in Waikato urban centres meets the latest Government targets.

Making progress towards meeting the targets is very important for economic, as well as health, reasons.

“If improvements are not made as scheduled, the Government will not allow Environment Waikato to issue resource consents for activities which contribute further to air pollution,” said chief executive Harry Wilson.

“That could place a clamp on industrial development in Hamilton, Putaruru, Taupo, Te Kuiti and Tokoroa, where levels of dangerous PM10 particles regularly exceed the National Environmental Standard set by Government.”

PM10 particles are small enough to enter people’s lungs and can worsen allergies, inflame throats and noses, and contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease.
The main contributors to PM10 in Waikato are home fires, vehicles and industry emissions. Pollution from these sources causes almost 1100 premature deaths in New Zealand and costs about $1.1 billion every year, according to a government study announced last week.

Environment Waikato has already agreed in principle to spend $1.2 million over four years helping people to convert to other forms of home heating.

But another central part of improving air quality is the establishment of base levels of pollution by PM10 particles. Environment Waikato’s policy and strategy committee has now agreed how these are to be set in each of the urban areas. Between now and 2013, Environment Waikato must show that the required progress towards reducing these levels is being met or else restrictions on issuing new resource consents for polluting activities will kick in.

The new base levels still need to be agreed by full council.

Mr Wilson said maintaining air quality was a very important council responsibility.

“By making our planned investment in heating conversions and by working towards the new Government targets we are effectively making a very significant investment in the future health of all people in the Waikato region.”