air pollution

4 June 2019 Chloe Brigden

New Zealand nears the top of the leader board for best air quality in the world. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked New Zealand highly. This was supported by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in the Our Air 2018 Report – painting a picture of improved air quality in New Zealand since 2016. 

The findings are unsurprising for our windswept, small populated maritime country. When compared to our neighbouring nations, New Zealand is much smaller in terms of heavy industries and built space.

However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the globe. Presently, 91% of the world’s population live in locations where air quality exceeds WHO’s air quality limits, resulting in an estimated seven million deaths worldwide each year.

Below we break-down New Zealand’s air quality score via its three key contributing industries…  

pexels photo 1370704

PROPERTY & BUILDINGS:

  • New Zealand’s largest single-cause of air pollution comes from burning wood or coal to heat homes.

  • Data from monitoring sites indicates that air quality is much poorer in autumn and winter.

  • The MfE responded to the above by setting restrictions on new, solid-fuel open fires in non-compliant airsheds.

  • In the Authorised Wood Burners regulations, the MfE lists authorised wood burners that meet the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality.

  • Currently, half a million people die each year (globally) due to outdoor air pollution caused by energy used in buildings.

  • In 2018, ThinkStep reported that buildings could be belching out 20 per cent of New Zealand's carbon pollution.

pexels photo 1445653
TRANSPORT

  • The transport sector is the second largest contributor of air pollution in New Zealand (Our Air Report, 2018).
  • Sitting in traffic has a bigger impact on your health. How? Pollution from neighbouring vehicles seep into your car and creates a concentrated solution of toxic air, reaching levels of up to 10 times those found in the normal city air.

  • Road type and design plays just as much of an impact on air quality as the number of vehicles, fleet and mix of speed.

  • State highways often have a greater impact than local roads due to their scale and traffic volume.

  • New research indicates that when students switch to schools with higher levels of traffic pollution, they tend to experience declines in test scores (City Lab, 2019).

  • The State Highway Environment and Social Responsibility Environmental Plan (2016-2021) will play an essential part in prioritising mitigation for environmental effects of existing state highways, focusing largely on noise, water and air pollution.

  • EV’s are continuing to surge in New Zealand, nearly doubling in fleet volume compared to this time last year.

  • The government's vision for transport in 2040 is that: 'People and freight in New Zealand have access to an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system.'

pexels photo 710263
AGRICULTURE

  • According to Our Air, 2018 - Recent intensification of agriculture could be causing an increase in ammonia emissions, which could affect ecosystems and biodiversity.

  • A rollout of framework has responded to the industry’s most crucial concerns; reducing greenhouse gasses, soil degradation and deforestation, all of which impact our air quality.

  • Initiatives we are seeing in New Zealand include land practice and management for risk of dust, consent and condition on farming activities (such as piggeries and poultry) standardising responsible, safe and effective agrichemicals (such as GrowSafe’s agrichemical handling operator training and certification) plus, farmers and pilots involvement in top-dressing for fertiliser spreading.

5 tips you can adopt to further reduce New Zealand’s air pollution…

  • Conserve energy – turn of lights, computers and electric appliances when not in use – also opt for eco and energy efficient settings.

  • Where possible, ditch the driving alone for walking, cycling or car-sharing.

  • In the market for a new car? opt for electric or hybrid for your next vehicle purchase.

  • Make sure you compost your organic food items – plus, advocate the benefits of composting to your place of work, friends and family.

  • Choose non-toxic paints and furnishing.

WSP Opus young gun wins Stormwater Professional of the Year Award 1