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Broader focus needed for Canterbury air plan to safeguard our health

Environment Canterbury (ECan) needs to revise the proposed Canterbury regional air plan and beef up its monitoring and controls on harmful airborne particles to protect the health of Christchurch and Timaru residents, the Green Party said today.

The call follows today’s release of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s  report on "The State of Air Quality in New Zealand".

Among recommendations made by Commissioner Dr Jan Wright was a call for the Ministry for the Environment to include monitoring and reporting of PM2.5 particulates that can lead to respiratory illness and death.

Main sources of PM2.5 in New Zealand include wood burning, diesel vehicles, sea salt, and sulphate production. It is the particle found in high levels in China’s largest cities, caused in part by vehicles and coal burning.  It is more harmful to human health than PM10 because its small size means it can go deeper into the lungs.

Currently, New Zealand’s national air quality standards only require a limit on the concentration of PM10, a less harmful particle.

“The Ministry and ECan needs to widen their focus from just PM10 to include PM2.5.  The proposed Canterbury air plan only has a broad long term target to reduce overall PM 2.5 emissions by 2030.  ECan needs to strengthen the plan to take small particulate emissions more seriously," said Green Party Christchurch spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“Long term exposure to PM2.5 is potentially fatal, and while much has been done to improve the air quality in Christchurch over the years, we’re still only getting part of the picture if PM2.5 isn’t taken seriously.

"With the plan under review it is an ideal time to widen the focus and strengthen it to reduce emissions of PM2.5 particles and not just PM10,” she said.

“ECan’s regional air quality plan was notified for public submissions on 28 February. It’s an opportunity for residents to tell the council that it needs to step up in terms of  monitoring, reporting and reducing PM2.5 particulate emissions,” said Ms Sage.