Six of Canterbury’s eight airsheds have met the government’s health-based guidelines so far in 2018, compared to four in 2017.
Environment Canterbury Chair Steve Lowndes says this positive result shows the initiatives in the Air Plan, and the plan that came before it, are working.
“The trend towards cleaner, healthier air in our urban communities is continuing. Thank you to thousands of Cantabrians who have upgraded to cleaner heating technology and to those who have been burning with no visible smoke from their chimneys,” he said.
Air pollution can be an issue in Canterbury’s urban centres, mainly during the coldest months. The National Environmental Standards for Air Quality allow no more than one high pollution day per year in Rangiora, Geraldine and Washdyke, and no more than three high pollution days per year in Kaiapoi, Christchurch, Ashburton, Timaru and Waimate. From September 2020, this reduces to one high pollution day per year in all airsheds.
A high pollution day is when the average level of PM10 over 24 hours exceeds 50 μg/m3. The highest concentrations usually occur on cold, still evenings during winter and the main source of emissions is from the burning of wood or coal for home heating.
Weather patterns vary year to year and have an impact on air quality each winter. Air pollution is usually worse on calm, clear winter evenings. In May and June 2018 Canterbury had fewer calm, clear evenings.
“This weather is likely to have had an impact on this winter’s results. However, we also know that many thousands of people have been burning well and upgrading to better technology like heat pumps or more modern wood burners,” says Lowndes.
Timaru and Christchurch are the only two airsheds that did not meet guidelines in 2018.
“It’s important to point out that although they did not meet the guidelines in 2018, they have both shown good progress over time. Timaru had 17 high pollution days in 2017 compared to eight so far in 2018, showing a real effort from the community. Christchurch’s St Albans monitoring station recorded 54 high pollution days in 1999 compared to just three so far in 2018, which is a dramatic improvement.”
“Changes to air quality do not happen overnight, but we are moving in the right direction and we are confident the initiatives in the Air Plan will help us see further progress over time.”
Source: Environment Canterbury