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How does ‘Air’ fit into the RPS?

Air is vital to life, but we have little choice about what we breathe in, and may not be aware of the harmful pollution around us. In general, the quality of air in the Waikato region is good. However, there are areas where poor air quality is resulting in unacceptable risks to human health and ecosystems, and breaches of the National Environmental Standards (NES) for air quality. 

To avoid unacceptable risks to human health and ecosystems from air discharges and ensure the Waikato region is compliant with the NES for air quality, we must reduce the discharge of fine particulate matter - particularly in urban areas. This type of pollution is mainly caused by solid fuel burners, open fires and busy roads.

The RPS acknowledges that any discharge to air results in some level of degradation, making it impossible to avoid altogether. Therefore, it allows for continued use of the resource, whilst ensuring the extent of degradation is as low as possible.

A combination of regulatory and non-regulatory methods are used to achieve the necessary reduction in emissions. Most of the methods are activities that the Waikato Regional Council has undertaken for many years (e.g. monitoring compliance with the NES for Air Quality). However, as set out in the RPS, if we do not make certain changes, non-compliance with air quality standards will continue.

Key messages

Healthy people: Having a healthy population within the Waikato is essential and the RPS sets out how unacceptable risks to human health and ecosystems can be minimised, with high priority placed on achieving compliance with NES. Waikato Regional Council will continue to work with relevant agencies to deliver incentives to replace older, less efficient forms of solid fuel home heating with clean heating appliances and insulation through the Clean Heat Retrofit Programme. It will also encourage wood fuel suppliers to provide good quality (low moisture) wood fuel for domestic home heating.

Strategic approach: Waikato Regional Council will maintain an air quality monitoring program to identify air sheds (which monitor air quality) that need improvement. It will work with territorial authorities, tāngata whenua and other stakeholders to identify potential gaps in how air quality issues are addressed and prioritise future actions for improving air quality. It will also work collaboratively to gather information about new wood burner installations and monitor trends in the number and type of wood burners being installed.

Reduced Emissions and controlled discharges: The RPS states that emissions per capita from domestic wood fires and the transport sector need to decrease. It encourages increased use of public transport (as well as cycling and walking) and decreased annual average concentrations of particulate matter in monitored urban areas. Discharges from open burning in urban areas, the mobilisation of soil or dust, industrial and trade premises and agrichemical application will be controlled. 

Manage air amenity:  The amenity values of air relate to how clean and fresh it is or is perceived to be. High amenity is associated with good visibility, low levels of dust and with people’s ability to enjoy the environment. Amenity can be reduced when contaminants affect people’s wellbeing, such as when dust or smoke reduces visibility or settles on surfaces, or when odour is considered objectionable. Waikato Regional Council will work with territorial authorities to manage adverse effects on amenity resulting from discharges to air. The RPS recognises that some areas will have a different amenity level to others.

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Key contacts

Amanda Banks, Senior Policy Advisor for Science and Strategy. (Policy Implementation).

Jonathan Caldwell, Senior Scientist for Science and Strategy. (Land and Soil). 

Ross Pennington, Manager for Community and Services. (Customer and Community Services). 

Quote 

“The RPS focus for air is avoidance of unacceptable risks to human health and ecosystems with high priority placed on achieving compliance with the National Environmental Standards. The implementation emphasis is on controlling discharges from solid fuel burners and open fires, the main source of air pollution in our region, but it also recognises the importance of controlling discharges from other sources such as transport and industry.” Jonathan Caldwell, Senior Scientist for Science and Strategy. (Land and Soil).