Winter air over Richmond breaches air quality regulations

The winter haze in June 2019 from Hill St in Richmond.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

The winter haze in June 2019 from Hill St in Richmond.

The air over Richmond exceeded the National Environmental Standard for Air Quality on four occasions in the year to September – three times more than permissible.

All four exceedances – on June 3, June 4, July 1 and July 2 – occurred in cool, calm conditions and were primarily associated with the burning of wood for home heating, according to a Tasman District Council staff report.

A winter air quality monitoring programme at Motueka recorded no exceedances while a final report was awaited on a commissioned air quality study at Riwaka and Brooklyn.

Senior policy planner Diana Worthy last weektold elected members at a regulatory committee meeting that staff expected to bring that final report and some commentary to councillors in the new year.

READ MORE:
* Post-lockdown rural burns spark air quality breach at Richmond
* Richmond airshed ‘polluted’, Motueka appears to have air quality issue
* Air over Richmond exceeds standards on 12 days of winter 2018

Regulatory committee chairwoman, councillor Dana Wensley, says she is concerned by the lack of movement on air quality improvement.

BRADEN FASTIER/Stuff

Regulatory committee chairwoman, councillor Dana Wensley, says she is concerned by the lack of movement on air quality improvement.

The council has a permanent, fixed monitoring station in the Richmond airshed, measuring coarser particulate matter (PM10) as well as finer PM2.5 particles. Council data shows the Richmond airshed exceeded the 2021 World Health Organisation’s daily guideline for PM2.5 particles 63 times.

One permissible exceedance a year for PM10 is allowed under the national standard.

During 2003, Richmond exceeded the national standard 40 times. In 2015, three exceedances were recorded. The staff report says that since 2012, daily PM10 concentrations have fluctuated with no overall declining trend.

Regulatory committee chairwoman, councillor Dana Wensley, said the details were concerning.

Air pollution caused a “big burden” on people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

“I do have concerns with our lack of movement in terms of air quality … particularly in the Richmond ward,” Wensley said, referring the lack of a declining trend since 2012.

“I do have a bit of frustration, as I guess staff do, with this and struggle to see what else we can do, and we seem to be waiting for central government for a lot of things.”

The view north in June 2019 over Richmond and Stoke from Valhalla Lane in Richmond.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

The view north in June 2019 over Richmond and Stoke from Valhalla Lane in Richmond.

Wensley was referring to a review of the National Environmental Standard for Air Quality and reform of the Resource Management Act.

“When we get those directions from central government, we will have to act and that will come at a cost,” she said.

Councillor Kit Maling said he believed that to improve the air quality in the urban areas in the long term, the council would need to offer an incentive for people to remove burners that were not compliant.

The air quality report reveals that of 6501 properties in the Richmond airshed, the council believes 114 are “potentially using non-compliant wood burners”.

Councillor Kit Maling says he believes the council will need to offer an incentive for people to remove non-compliant burners to improve air quality in urban areas over the long term.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

Councillor Kit Maling says he believes the council will need to offer an incentive for people to remove non-compliant burners to improve air quality in urban areas over the long term.

Maling said the council should put some money aside in the next Long Term Plan to “address this issue”.

Councillor Anne Turley asked if more rural areas could be included in air quality monitoring. “I’m sure there are far more exceedances in Brightwater alone.”

Poor air quality was an ongoing issue.

“It’s not just respiratory disease, it’s also heart disease, people with shortness of breath,” Turley said.

Worthy said a monitoring work programme had been scheduled for Wakefield and Brightwater for the winter of 2023, followed by Murchison two years later.

“Those are our priority areas after Motueka.”

Staff are to investigate if any additional funding can be made available to boost behaviour change and education programmes aimed at improving air quality.

TIM CUFF PHOTOGRAPHY

A time-lapse video of a burn-off near Motueka, filmed from the Nelson suburb of Atawhai. Video first published on September 2, 2021.

Meanwhile, in the six months to September 30, the council received 122 complaints related to smoke – most for outdoor burning – down from 262 in 2020.

Worthy pointed to fewer outdoor fires.

“This winter, there weren’t as many typical outdoor rural burns because orchardists couldn’t supply the replacement tree stock, so they weren’t doing the usual replacement programmes,” she said.

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