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New report highlights air pollution concerns for Southland - Environment Southland

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new report released yesterday highlights the health and social costs of air pollution in New Zealand.

For Southland, the report highlights domestic fires continue to be a leading cause of air pollution, but also raises the issue of nitrogen dioxide from vehicle emissions, which was previously understood to be a low contributor to Southland’s air pollution.

The report, released by the Ministry for the Environment, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency, Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport, and Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health, is the third update and assesses the air pollution health effects experienced by New Zealanders for 2016.

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said the report provides a useful and timely update for us as we begin to review the measures we have in place to tackle our air pollution issues.

"We’ve already made great strides in tackling air pollution issues in Southland. In the last few years we’ve been seeing improvements in our air quality as our monitoring of PM10 (fine particles) is showing fewer exceedances of the national standards."

Air quality is one of Environment Southland’s key priorities. A revision of the Regional Air Plan in 2016 introduced a number of initiatives to combat air pollution, focusing on domestic burners.

This is the first time that information on vehicle emissions has been included in the report, and indicates that the social costs for motor vehicle emissions in Southland are much higher than previously estimated. This is largely driven from an increased amount of research available to draw on. In 2021 the World Health Organisation also updated its air quality guidelines, tightening the target for NO2 by 75%, demonstrating the significant reductions required.

"Despite the increased impact from vehicle emissions, PM2.5 (fine particles) from domestic burners are still the dominant source of Southland’s poor air quality."

In Southland, there are rules in place requiring new home burners to meet national emission limits, the phasing out of older burners, a loan scheme to support people to upgrade their heating and insulation, limits on the moisture content of wood and bans on certain kinds of fuels that can be used in home burners, and a Good Wood approved supplier scheme.

An updated National Environmental Standard for Air Quality has been anticipated for some time now. "Guidance from Government on this is important for our ongoing programmes, but we’re not waiting for it. We’ve begun reviewing how we can best support our communities to reduce air pollution, and have initiated some research to understand how our communities have already made changes to improve their practice."

"It has become apparent that Southland needs to reduce motor vehicle emissions. While this will be beneficial for our air quality and community health, it also connects to the National Emissions Reduction Plan, as well as local and national activities to reduce the impacts of climate change."

"This report also highlights that there may be further opportunities to partner on tackling these issues, both locally and with central Government."

"Southland’s biggest challenge will be continuing to address the impacts of domestic heating. We know that Southland’s climate is such that the cold winters require homes to be heated. We can achieve both. Efficient burners lead to less pollution and better health outcomes for us all."

Reducing current PM2.5 and NO2 levels by just 5% across the Southland region could have some significant benefits.

"We’ve already made great progress. Now’s the time to look at our individual activities and consider what else we might be able to do to improve our practices."

To get live PM10 levels for Invercargill and Gore and find out more about what you can do to improve air quality, go to www.BreatheEasySouthland.co.nz

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