Proposed amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality

Since the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ) were introduced in 2004 there have been developments in the understanding of air contaminants and effects on human health.  The Government is proposing amendments to the NESAQ to align with these developments.  Submissions on the proposed amendments close on 31 July 2020.

The NESAQ currently regulate particulate matter but target particles measuring 10 microns or less in diameter (PM10). PM10 is no longer considered the best indicator of the health impacts of particulate matter pollution.  The proposed amendments specifically target particles measuring 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5).  This will impact home heating and other activities that result in PM2.5 discharges, including roads and combustion-based industrial activities.

The amendments introduce PM2.5 as the primary regulatory tool to manage ambient particulate matter and establish a daily and annual standard for PM2.5.  The PM10 standard will be retained for managing potential issues for coarse particulates.

Associated amendments are proposed to the determination of whether an airshed is polluted to reflect the change in focus from PM10 to PM2.5.  Airsheds will be considered polluted if the daily or annual PM2.5 standards are breached, averaged over the past five years.  New applications to discharge PM2.5 in a polluted airshed will be declined unless the discharge is offset within the same airshed.  The previous “offset” regime for PM10 is proposed to be removed.  There are uncertainties about the threshold for the offsetting requirement and the transition from PM10 to PM2.5 for determining whether an airshed is polluted, and ongoing issues associated with the boundaries of airsheds.

The amendments also propose an emissions standard for all newly installed, solid-fuel burners of 1.0g/kg which is stricter than the current standard of 1.5g/kg.  No change is proposed to the 65% thermal efficiency standard.  The amendments relating to household burners aim to take a balanced approach to improving air quality and associated health impacts without unduly exposing New Zealanders to health issues linked to cold homes.

Finally, the proposed amendments will prohibit the use of mercury in certain listed industrial processes and incorporate international best practice guidance that decision-makers must consider for the listed processes.

The amendments will come into immediate effect once they are gazetted.  However, it has been recognised that transitional provisions may be needed in order to allow time for compliance.

If you have any queries about the impacts of the amendments on your current or future activities, please contact a member of our Resource Management team.

Resource Management team

Josh LeckieAnnabel Hawkins (née Linterman), Kelsey Barry, Mia Turner

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