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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 overview of the air domain from the Environment Aotearoa 2015 report.

Air domain at a glance

Most New Zealanders enjoy good air quality most of the time. When air quality reaches levels considered unhealthy, this usually happens for limited periods in specific locations. The air pollutant of most concern from a health perspective is particulate matter – the tiny airborne particles that affect respiratory and cardiovascular health. Damage to respiratory and cardiovascular systems can lead to hospital admissions, days of work lost, and shorter lives for some New Zealanders.

Key findings:

  • Burning wood and coal for home heating is the primary source of pollutants that cause most concern. It contributes 58 percent to annual emissions of human-made particulate matter in our air. This is a problem mainly in winter, in places where households use wood or coal to keep their homes warm.
  • Air quality showed a significant improvement since 2006, driven mainly by the shift to cleaner home heating.
  • Between 2001 and 2013, estimated emissions for five key pollutants from road vehicles fell between 26 and 52 percent, due to improvements to fuel, and stricter emission limits on new vehicles. 
  • In 2012, an estimated 1,000 premature deaths were associated with particulate matter in our air, 14 percent fewer than in 2006.

For more detail see:

-        Our full report Environment Aotearoa 2015

-        Our Environmental indicators Te taiao Aotearoa webpages in the Air Domain

-        The data underpinning national reporting on the MfE Data Service