Pol­lu­tion is up in the air

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

A new study of un­seen fac­tors in Auck­land’s air may save your wood­burner from ex­tinc­tion.

That re­prieve is a pos­si­bil­ity af­ter ear­lier Auck­land Coun­cil think­ing warned such burn­ers could be banned.

Now there’s grow­ing sus­pi­cion that nat­u­ral fac­tors might also be a ma­jor pol­lu­tion en­emy.

Dr Jan Wright, the par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sioner for the en­vi­ron­ment, has told MPs that air qual­ity reg­u­la­tions need to be re­viewed.

She rates the coun­try’s air qual­ity as gen­er­ally good – but says the reg­u­la­tions around in-house wood fires need strength­en­ing.

An­drea Birtwistle, the coun­cil’s se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist in by­laws com­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­gage­ment, says Auck­land Coun­cil wel­comes the com­mis­sioner’s com­ments.

That new think­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in­cludes PM2.5, the need to mea­sure ‘‘par­tic­u­late mat­ter’’ in the air which is more harm­ful to hu­man health in the long-term.

Those fine par­tic­u­lates are in­vis­i­ble to the hu­man eye and can be pro­duced from nat­u­ral sources such as pollen and sea spray as well as by hu­man sources like ve­hi­cle emis­sions, industrial ac­tiv­i­ties … and in­door do­mes­tic fires.

The coun­cil last year pro­posed an Air Qual­ity By­law to meet the na­tional stan­dards, as all coun­cils are re­quired to do. The lean­ing was then to­wards a ban on wood­burn­ers. Its staff have been pub­licly coy about cause and out­comes and have met gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Welling­ton to dis­cuss the na­ture and scale of air pol­lu­tion in Auck­land and the ef­fect of the cur­rent na­tional stan­dards.

The lat­est coun­cil re­lease quotes reg­u­la­tory and by­laws com­mit­tee chair­man Calum Pen­rose:

‘‘A key is­sue raised by the com­mis­sioner is that the New Zealand stan­dard for air pol­lu­tion is based on short-term ex­po­sure to PM10. But, most im­por­tantly, long-term ex­po­sure to PM2.5 needs to be dealt with be­cause of its greater ef­fects on health. Auck­land Coun­cil has also raised the same is­sue and wel­comes the com­mis­sioner’s rec­om­men­da­tion to Par­lia­ment to re­view the cur­rent air qual­ity rules.’’

The coun­cil mon­i­tors PM10 (nat­u­ral and man-made sources) as re­quired un­der na­tional stan­dards.

Mon­i­tor­ing PM2.5 could also pro­vide a clearer pic­ture of the pol­lu­tion caused by man-made sources like com­bus­tion in do­mes­tic heat­ing ap­pli­ances, mo­tor ve­hi­cles and industrial pro­cesses.

Two com­pli­ance stan­dards for PM2.5 in­cluded in the pro­posed Auck­land Uni­tary Plan will help guide the re­gion in pro­tect­ing public health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Pre­sum­ably those ‘‘Ur­ban Air­sheds’’ re­vealed last week will play a part which might not nec­es­sar­ily lead to wood­burner ex­tinc­tion.

Pen­rose says Par­lia­ment will need to care­fully con­sider the rec­om­men­da­tions made to up­date the air qual­ity rules.

‘‘The coun­cil looks for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing with the gov­ern­ment to reg­u­late air qual­ity in a way suit­able for Auck­land.’’ Small talk: ‘‘Con­grat­u­la­tions to Michael Tavares and sup­port­ers for knock­ing some sense into our coun­cil and their nu­mer­ous of­fi­cials over the kauri.

‘‘If one can save a tree by ty­ing one­self to it then surely one can stop a wharf ex­ten­sion by at­tach­ing boats to it or an­chor­ing close by. I doubt the har­bour­mas­ter will be im­pressed but me­dia cov­er­age of any forced re­moval might slow down.’’ – Michael Baylis, Pon­sonby Con­fes­sion cor­ner: Who was among the know-alls who slagged off the ap­point­ment of Black Caps se­lec­tor and coach Mike Hes­son, be­wail­ing the fact he had no ca­reer in first class cricket … etc? I’ll tell you in small print as long as you prom­ise not to pass it on. A mis­guided critic: Pat Booth!

Reader feed­back: ‘‘If one can save a tree by ty­ing one­self to it then surely one can stop a wharf ex­ten­sion by at­tach­ing boats to it or an­chor­ing close by.’’

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