Published 31 January 2011
Environment Minister Nick Smith announced a new plan for clean air at the weekend, intended to toughen measures to reduce pollution but giving councils more time to meet air quality standards. The changes include an easing of rules for industrial consents.
Dr Smith told the Bluegreens Forum in Akaroa: “New Zealand needs to strike a careful balance between the pace we improve air quality and the impacts on jobs & household costs. We need to replace our old & open domestic fires, invest in cleaner technology in our factories and continue to shift to modern low-polluting vehicles. These changes need to be paced to maximise the health benefits while minimising the economic costs.
"Change is needed because Labour’s 2004 policy was poorly implemented, unrealistic & unfair. 15 airsheds – including Auckland, Christchurch & many provincial centres covering 40% of our population – are unlikely to comply by the 2013 deadline. The blunt enforcement provision only penalises industry, prohibiting new or existing industrial consents being renewed, and puts at risk an estimated 17,000 jobs."
The key changes to the air quality standards are:
Extending the compliance timeframe to achieve not more than one exceedance/year from 2013 to 2016 for areas with moderate air pollution – areas recording fewer than 10 exceedances/ year on average over the period 2005-09, eg Auckland (5), Napier (4), Blenheim (4), Hamilton (2)Extending the compliance timetable to achieve not more than one exceedance/year from 2013 to 2020 for areas with high air pollution – greater than 10 exceedances/year, eg Timaru (39), Nelson (37), Rotorua (30), Christchurch (21), Hastings (18), Ashburton (16) – with a requirement to get below 3 exceedances by 2016Amending the exceptional events such as volcanic eruptions, bushfires & Australian dust storms from the count of exceedance events.
"These timing changes have been heavily influenced by cost:benefit analysis. This shows the slower timetable in the new policy reduces the health benefits slightly from $1911 million to $1746 million, but also significantly reduces the economic costs from $867 million to $196 million. This reflects the lesser costs of achieving the improvements in air quality over a more realistic timetable. The new standard is also complemented by measures to reduce air pollution from homes, industry & vehicles.”
Dr Smith said the Government was investing heavily in helping households to shift to clean heat, with 20,000 homes converted in 2 years after 800 were converted in the previous decade.
The new national standard will also introduce a prohibition on the building of new household open fire places in all polluted airsheds from September 2012. Dr Smith said an open fire produced 8 times as much air pollution as an approved log burner and 20 times as much as a pellet fire.
"The new national standard also includes a mandatory offset regime for new industrial consents in polluted airsheds from September 2012. This measure will replace the blunt tool of prohibiting any new consent where areas fail to meet the required air quality standard.
"Progressive changes in rules for second-hand cars in 2008, 2009 & next year will reduce particulate pollution by 90% and similar changes are being made for new & heavy vehicles. Fuel standards are also progressively being improved.
"This new air quality policy follows on from concerns raised at the 2009 job summit, the technical advisory group report in late 2008 and the consultation on the draft changes in 2010. This extensive consultation & analysis has produced a robust policy that will deliver clean air at an affordable cost."
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Attribution: Ministerial release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.