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Air Quality

New Zealand has relatively good air quality due to our low population density, close proximity to the sea, and our remote location.  As our population and size of urban areas increase, air pollution can get worse as many of our daily activities release chemicals and particles into the air we breathe. The most significant air pollutant in New Zealand is particulate matter. Many people in colder parts of the country are exposed to relatively high levels of particulates in winter produced by wood-burning for home heating, and people who live beside busy roads can be exposed to contaminants. The Ministry for the Environment provides national guidance for regional councils and unitary authorities to protect the air in their region, but we all have a role to play in improving air quality.

Click on your region to view air quality results for towns that are monitored in your area or to find out the main sources of air pollution. 

Click on the National Picture tab for a national view on air quality in New Zealand.

National reporting

Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand provide a national picture of the environment in regular reports produced under the Environmental Reporting Act 2015. Below is the summary of the Our air 2018 environmental report.

 

 

Key findings from Our air 2018

Our air 2018 shows that air quality in New Zealand is generally good and that the overall trend is getting slightly better, with downward trends recorded for some pollutants.

But the report also shows that the situation is not perfect. Some of our activities in certain parts of the country and at certain times of the year, mainly winter, are putting our air quality under pressure.

There are two leading causes of air pollution in New Zealand. Burning wood and coal in winter for home heating causes issues in some areas, and traffic causes problems in some regions all year round.

Key sources of air pollution in New Zealand

  • Burning wood and coal for home heating in winter is the leading cause of poor air quality.
  • Vehicle emissions are also an important cause of poor air quality in many places.

Particulate matter

  • Winter PM10 levels have dropped since 2007 in 17 of 39 monitored areas.
  • In 2015, home heating caused 25% of the human-generated PM10 emissions and a third of PM2.5 particles annually.

Health impacts

  • Particulate matter in the air can cause shortness of breath and coughing or more severe health effects, such as heart or lung disease.
  • Models show that PM10 contributed to 8% fewer premature adult deaths in 2016 than in 2006 as more people live in areas with less pollution.

Light pollution

  • Most of our skies are pristine. But light pollution in cities means that 56% of Kiwis can’t see the Milky Way.
  • Light pollution could affect mātauranga Māori and cultural practices, natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

Other pollutants

  • Arsenic levels in our air peak in winter when people burn treated wood for home heating.
  • Sulphur dioxide from shipping is an emerging pollutant in cities with ports.

Vehicles

  • Vehicles were the main source (39%) of the estimated human-generated nitrogen oxides in our air in 2015.
  • Despite more vehicles on the road, we found a decreasing trend in nitrogen dioxide concentrations between 2004 and 2016.

 

For more detail see:

 Environmental reporting on air