16 Jun 2016

NZ air pollution updated in real time, online

7:06 pm on 16 June 2016

New Zealanders can now monitor air pollution in 150 locations throughout the country with just a click of a mouse.

The website [https://www.lawa.org.nz/explore-data/auckland-region/air-quality/

Land, Air and Water Aotearoa] has launched a real-time monitoring system for 150 locations throughout the country.

A file photo shows smog above a town.

A file photo shows smog above a town. Photo: 123RF

The website is a partnership between the country's 16 regional and unitary councils, the Ministry for the Environment, the Cawthron Institute and Massey University.

Environment Canterbury senior air quality scientist Teresa Aberkane said pollution levels are measured by the amount of particulate matter, known as PM10, in the atmosphere.

"It could be a combustion particle, so something when wood has been burned or coal or diesel [or] petrol combustion in a vehicle, it can also be a natural particle like dust or sea salt marine aerosol. Any kind of particle that's in the air, that's small enough to be inhaled."

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said the website meant anyone could see how their environment was changing - for better or for worse.

"Poor air quality is a silent killer which accounts for more than 2300 premature deaths in New Zealand every year. About one half of these deaths are from man-made pollution."

The chair of Local Government New Zealand's regional sector Stephen Woodhead said good air quality was fundamental to New Zealanders' health.

"Over the winter months, air quality can be an issue for many towns and cities in the colder areas of New Zealand."

Mr Woodhead said the launch had come just in time.

"Primarily this is a winter problem and primarily 80 to 90 percent of the source of the pollutants comes from home heating, so it's crucial that communities use good clean dry fuel and maintain their woodburners."

Mr Woodhead hoped the website would help communities make management changes around the use of woodburners.

PM10 levels in Rotorua are a particular focus for the Bay of Plenty regional council.

The council's environmental scientist Shane Iremonger said air quality within the city in winter regularly exceeded the level set by the Ministry for the Environment.

Mr Iremonger said the pollution levels were being largely caused by the use of older wood and log burners used for home heating.

"We hope publishing this monitoring data on LAWA will help grow awareness and understanding of air quality issues and the work we do to keep our air clean and free of pollution."