Airborne dust can be produced naturally or from human activity.

It is usually larger dust particles that cause issues – they are more obvious when they coat cars and buildings.

Dust drifting on the wind can affect neighbouring properties, particularly in higher density residential areas. It can cause make a mess, reduce visibility and make the area less pleasant. The fine solids that make up dust can include soil, pollen and industry discharges. Otago has many unsealed roads and residential development, which can be a source of dust. Pollen powder can also coat waterways and streets at certain times of the year. Contact your health professional if you are allergic to wind-borne pollen.

Sources of dust

Sources of nuisance dust in Otago could include:

  • natural sources such as dry lake and riverbeds
  • wind-blown dust from stockpiles
  • land and soil disturbance associated with subdivision development, construction, land clearance, forestry and cultivation
  • landfills and other waste-handling facilities
  • industrial operations
  • stonemasons, mineral processing, cement handling and batching, and fertiliser storage and processing.

Plans and policies

The Regional Plan: Air for Otago (the Air Plan) helps us manage Otago’s air resource. It has policies and methods (which include rules) to address the air quality issues in Otago.

Reducing dust emissions

Once dust is in the air, it can be hard to control. The best way to manage dust is to make sure it isn’t released in the first place.

Methods could include:

  • suppressing dust with water carts or sprinklers on dry, windy days
  • using environmentally responsible chemical products to stabilise the ground
  • stabilising the surface with aggregate, geotextile materials or mulch
  • improving the surface – for example, by sealing with asphalt
  • revegetating or grassing the area
  • creating defined entry/exit points to land development sites
  • limiting the height of stockpiles and stabilising them
  • limiting work that generates dust when it is dry and windy

Note: The use of waste oil as a dust suppressant is prohibited in Otago.  

Reporting dust

Dust is complicated:

  • some people are more affected by dust than others
  • it’s difficult to easily measure dust, especially at low concentrations

If you have an issue with dust, we encourage you to talk with the people creating it as a first step. Most people are reasonable and willing to discuss the problem, and we find that most issues can be resolved this way.

You can report nuisance dust to our 24/7 pollution hotline on 800 800 033 or email  

It’s helpful if you can answer these questions:

  • what does it look like? 
  • is any particulate/dust coming onto your property?
  • how is it affecting you and making you feel? (coughing) 
  • what are the weather conditions? (calm, westerly wind) 
  • on a scale of 1-10, how intense is the dust? 
  • is this still happening? 
  • for how long did the dust occur for? 
  • is the dust a one-off, intermittent (coming and going) or continuous? 

If you cannot resolve the dust issue with the people causing it, we will assess the problem. We will consider any previous confirmed dust complaints for the same site and the Ministry for the Environment’s Good Practice Guide for Assessing and Managing Dust. You can read the guide yourself on the MofE website

Pollen in a roadside drain