Air quality fails to meet health guidelines

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by Chris Tobin

With eight high-pollution days this year, Timaru’s air quality has failed to meet the Government’s health guidelines but it is improving.

Christchurch also failed, while six other Canterbury airsheds met the guidelines.

“It’s important to point out that although Timaru and Christchurch did not meet the guidelines this year, they have both shown good progress over time,” Environment Canterbury chairman Steve Lowndes said.

High-pollution nights:

2012: Timaru 33, Washdyke 3, Waimate 11, Geraldine 7.

2014: Timaru 41, Washdyke 3, Waimate 8, Geraldine 4.

2016: Timaru 27, Washdyke 1, Waimate 0, Geraldine 1.
2017: Timaru 17, Washdyke 1, Waimate 2, Geraldine 1.

“Timaru had 17 high-pollution days last year compared to eight so far this year, showing a real effort from the community.”

Under the national environmental standards, Timaru and Waimate can have only three high-pollution days per year.

From September 2020 this will reduce to one high-pollution day for all airsheds.

Timaru’s air quality is monitored at Anzac Square and in 2003 reached its highest level since records began with 56 high-pollution days. That year Waimate had 11 and Geraldine three.

In 2008, Timaru’s high-pollution days dropped to 41 days.

Mr Lowndes said Canterbury had fewer calm, clear evenings this year.

“This weather is likely to have had an impact on this winter’s results.”

However, many people had been burning fuel well “and upgrading to better technology like heat pumps or more modern log burners”.

“Changes to air quality do not happen overnight but we are moving in the right direction and we are confident that initiatives in the air plan will help us further progress over time,” Mr Lowndes said.