Media release

Improvements seen in Otago air quality

Thursday 9 February 2017

Air emissions in Otago are on the way down, according to an emissions survey commissioned by the Otago Regional Council.

Results from an air emissions inventory carried out in 2016 were presented to Otago regional councillors yesterday. The results showed that in Alexandra, Arrowtown, Milton, and Mosgiel emissions had reduced by 50% since 2005.

The reduction in PM10 emissions is considered to be largely due to a decrease in coal use and the replacement of older, inefficient wood burners with newer burners that meet national and regional standards. Some improvement can also be attributed to industrial emissions through switching of fuel sources and closures in some industries.

In Otago the main air pollutant is particulate matter (PM10) suspended in the air. PM10 is produced by the combustion of wood and fossil fuels, as well as by various industrial and natural processes.

These particles can easily be breathed in. Many people in colder parts of the region are exposed to relatively high levels of particulates in winter produced by wood-burning for home heating.

To assist homeowners to make the change to more efficient burners, the council offers a Clean Heat Clean Air programme in Milton, Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell and Arrowtown. This programme provides financial assistance with the installation of clean heating appliances.

In the eight and a-half years since the programme began, 4402 grants totalling $6.2 million have been made for clean heating and insulation in these areas, supported by ORC targeted rates and funding from the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA).

ORC no longer funds insulation, but continues to provide clean heating subsidies under the Clean Heat, Clean Air programme.

ORC technical committee chairwoman Cr Maggie Lawton said the emissions survey will guide ORC’s further policy direction.

“Work is underway to develop the next air strategy for Otago. This emissions survey is an important step in understanding our current position, improvements made and areas that need more focus,” Cr Lawton said.

“However, we must also not lose sight of the need for homes to be warm. Any alternative to solid fuel burners must be affordable for our community.”

Cr Lawton said this thinking needs to be bigger than heating sources but also consider insulation, glazing, and maximizing access to winter sun within buildings.

“We should consider the advancements made overseas in this area and work collaboratively with city/district councils, health agencies, and central government to identify opportunities to explore all the avenues to improve home heating and air quality simultaneously.”

Cr Lawton said the strategy will also be guided by any revisions the Ministry of Environment makes to the National Environmental Standards for air quality, which are expected later this year.

For further information contact

Deborah Mills
Air quality scientist
Ph 0800 474082

Communications contact

Mark Peart
Team Leader Communications – Channels

Ph 0800 474082 or 027 5312620