3 Aug 2011

Air pollution rates in south not improving

10:05 pm on 3 August 2011

Air quality in some southern regions has not improved despite a decade of government initiatives, new data reveals.

Figures released by Environment Minister Nick Smith at an air quality conference show that, nationally, the air pollution standard is being breached an average of 3.5 nights per year, a drop of 60% in five years.

The Government's target is three nights per year by 2016, and it appears the country as a whole is on track.

But parts of central Otago, where coal and old wood fires are common, are still over the limit on an average 76 nights per year.

Timaru, Kaiapoi and Reefton have also made little progress or have gone backwards.

The Government says it has spent about $26 million to convert homes to cleaner heating, but an estimated 1100 people a year are still dying early because of air pollution.

Dr Smith says he is willing to intervene if councils do not take steps to address the problem, but thinks they are getting the message.