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Air is a life supporting resource that needs to be protected. Although Northland's air is generally of a high quality, there is air pollution from human activities – particularly around urban centres such as Whangarei city.

Northland, like most other predominantly rural regions in New Zealand, is noted for its clear skies and fresh air. The prevailing south-westerly winds generally move air masses across the region fairly rapidly, although smoke and fog can accumulate during extended periods of cool, still weather.

In order to protect our air, the Regional Council developed the Regional Air Quality Plan for Northland, which became operative in March 2003. The plan provides guidance to those using our air resource in addition to specifying rules on what discharges into the air are authorised.

More recently, the Ministry for the Environment introduced National Environmental Standards (NES) for air quality in October 2004. These include:

  • prohibiting certain activities because of the air pollution they generate
  • setting maximum concentrations for harmful pollutants in air to protect public health
  • setting emission standards and efficiency criteria for wood burners used for home heating.

Prohibited activities

No person may carry out the following activities (effective 8 October 2004):

  • burning of coated wire in the open
  • deliberate landfill fires
  • burning of tyres in the open
  • burning of road tar seal (bitumen burnoff)
  • burning of waste oil in the open

In addition, no new high temperature hazardous waste incinerators are allowed to be built, and from October 2006, the use of school and hospital incinerators will be banned unless they obtain a resource consent.

For more information on these standards and guidelines check out the following pdf's on the Ministry of the Environment's website at the following web addresses:

  • National Environmental Standards for air quality

  • Ambient Air Quality Guidelines

Five ambient air standards became effective in September 2005. The pollutants covered include, fine particles (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO). Regional councils must monitor air quality for these pollutants and publicly report any exceedances. Northland Regional Council monitored fine particulate matter (PM10) (refer page 3) and sulphur dioxide in 2005-2006.

There will be future expansion of the Regional Council's air monitoring inline with the requirements of the air standards.

Northland Regional Council has been monitoring air quality since 1996. The main purpose of air quality monitoring is to find out where air pollution might affect people's health. Air pollution monitoring in the Northland region shows that there are some areas with poor air quality, especially during winter or next to busy roads. In winter, there are periods of cold, calm weather when pollutants can build up to levels that may affect human health.

Air quality monitoring to date has shown that Whangarei city is the most likely area to have air pollution episodes during the winter. Air quality around busy roads, especially those subject to traffic congestion, can be degraded by pollutants emitted from motor vehicles. Northland Regional Council also has an ongoing programmes to carry out air quality monitoring in places suspected of having occasional degraded air quality.

Part of the implementation of the National Environmental Standards required Regional Councils to designate areas (airsheds) where air quality had been affected as a result of human activities. Using results of research into airsheds carried out by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Northland Regional Council identified five areas in Northland which are suspected of reaching or exceeding the National Environmental Standards (NES).

The five areas include:

  • Whangarei city - expected to reach or exceed the NES for PM10
  • Marsden Point - expected to reach or exceed the NES for sulphur dioxide
  • Kaitaia - expected to reach or exceed the NES for PM10
  • Kerikeri - expected to reach or exceed the NES for PM10
  • Dargaville - expected to reach or exceed the NES for PM10
View these maps on our website