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Rotorua Air Frequently Asked Questions

Topics for Frequently Asked Questions are (click on the topic to go specific questions).

Rotorua's Air Quality

Why do we measure our air quality?

Bay of Plenty Regional Council measures the amount of pollution in the air as the Ministry of Environment requires us to do so. We have three monitoring stations in Rotorua. They are placed in areas most likely to have the highest pollution levels.

What are we measuring with our air monitoring?

The type of pollution that we monitor is fine particulate matter called PM10. These are very small specks of dust, coal and burnt wood in the air.  PM10 is so small that 5 can fit across the width of a human hair.

National Standards for Air Quality has set the daily maximum concentration of PM10 at 50 micrograms for every cubic metre of air (µg/m3)

You can see our current levels of air pollution with our live monitoring.

Why is our air quality a concern?

There is a link between health effects and air pollution. 

The most vulnerable to health effects of pollution are the elderly, the very young and those who already have respiratory problems such as asthma.

Additionally our air pollution:

  • Affects our standard of living as it is increasing the number of days where people can't enjoy or do things outdoors
  • Tarnishes our NZ "Clean, green image".
  • May affect future economic development as resource consents may not be granted to industries in Rotorua

Does the natural geothermal activity in the area cause our air pollution?

Many people believe that industrial activity, vehicles, and the natural geothermal activity in the area are the main causes of Rotorua's pollution. But studies have indicated that if all these sources were removed from Rotorua our pollution levels in winter time will be so high that they will still
exceed the safe and acceptable levels of air pollution.

What causes our air pollution?

Rotorua has the worst air pollution in the North Island. The biggest cause of our winter air pollution is home fires. 60 % of our air pollution comes from home heating.

Industry (24%) and vehicles (12%) do contribute to our pollution.

Nearly 50% of Rotorua residents use wood burners, open fires or multi-burners as their main source of heating.  36% of households in the Rotorua Air shed use pre-2005 log burners or open fires and would not comply with current government standards if they were installed today.

We estimate that we need 7,650 homes to change the way they currently heat their homes to improve our air quality to a safe and acceptable standard. The more homes that convert to electrical or gas based appliances, the number of homes that need to change their heating will be less. The more homes that change to compliant solid fuel burners, the number of homes needed to convert may be larger.

The majority of Rotorua's breaches of the safe standards are in winter time.

In the last full year of monitoring we exceeded the National Standard 26 times.

Is there a date we need to meet the deadline for?

Ministry of Environment have set a deadline for meeting the National Standards. This is 1 September 2013. If we don't meet the standards by this date then it may have an effect on resource consents for industry. This could be detrimental to the local economy.

Can we really change the amount of pollution in our air?

Other cities in New Zealand have significantly reduced the amount of air pollution. Christchurch was renowned for its smog and pollution. At its peak Christchurch had a measurement four times the safe and acceptable level. They have since halved this and are well on the way to meet the National Standards for Air Quality by the deadline of 1 September 2013.

Winter Pollution

Why is winter pollution worse?

On cold clear days in winter Rotorua appears to have what looks like fog over the city. It is most noticeable when you look down over the city from an elevated point. This is not just fog, it's smoke and particulates.

The basin shape of the land around Rotorua means cold air, which normally rises, is trapped by the surrounding mountains. A layer of warm air forms above the cold air acting like a blanket. This is called an inversion layer. The air pollution from sources like home fires gets trapped with this cold air and it stays there. Not only is this pollution unpleasant to look at but we are breathing it into our lungs.

Why is home heating causing our air pollution?

Half of Rotorua household's burn wood or coal to heat their homes. The majority of these homes are using wood burners or multi-burners that are over 13 years of age. The effective life span of a solid fuel burner is 10-15 years. After this they are less heat efficient and produce more pollution than the newer models that can be purchased today.

Are all wood burners bad for our air pollution?

The Ministry for Environment has produced a list of wood burners and pellet fires that produce acceptable levels of pollution and provide a minimum level of heat efficiency. If Rotorua residents upgraded their old home fires to compliant models and followed good burning practices like burning dry wood, we would see a significant reduction in our air pollution.

Can I have an open fire?

Open fires produce the most pollution of any of the other home heating options. They also do not produce efficient heat. The best open fires lose more than half of their heat up the chimney. Together Rotorua District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council developed the Air Quality Control Bylaw. From 1 December 2010 open fires cannot be installed in homes in the Rotorua airshed.  After 1 May 2015 there will be a ban on using indoor open fires.

Can I still install a wood burner?

Building Consents will only be granted in the Rotorua Airshed for models on the Ministry for Environments approved list. These all have low emissions and minimum heat efficiency ratings.

How else can I heat my house?

Heat pumps and efficient flued gas heaters do not produce any PM10 emissions. Installing a heat pump or a good gas heater instead of a wood burner will reduce the amount of pollution in Rotorua. Pellet Fires also produce very small levels of pollution and are a good alternative to a wood burner. Try and ensure that your house is well insulated so that you can reduce the amount of time you use your heating appliance.

Upgrading old wood burners and financial incentives

I need to upgrade my wood burner, is there any financial help available?

The Regional Council are offering the Hot Swap Loan - an interest free loan, up to $4000 to be paid off over 10 years to upgrade to clean heat. The Rotorua Hot Swap is a Home Heating Assessment and loan offered to Rotorua Ratepayers in the urban airshed to convert non compliant old wood burners and open fires to a clean heat appliance.  For more information on the Hot Swap Loan click here.

How do I know if my wood burner is compliant?

All open fires are non compliant.  Generally any wood burner that is over 10 years old, or not on the Ministry for the Environment's approved wood burner list, is non compliant.  You can check the approved list on the  Ministry for the Environment website. All wood burner models over 15 years of age should be upgraded.  Any of our Service Providers will be able to confirm if your wood burner is non compliant when they undertake a Home Heating Assessment.

I own several rental properties in the airshed.  Can I get the loan on each property?

As long your rental properties are in the Rotorua airshed you will be eligible for the interest free loan for each property.

I don't live in the Airshed but want to upgrade my solid fuel burner?

The incentive is offered to reduce pollution in the airshed so only properties in the airshed are eligible for this loan.  Other subsidies are available through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.  Go to www.energywise.govt.nz for more information.

How do I apply for the Hot Swap Loan?

Apply now or call 0800 HOT SWAP to request a Home Heating Assessment and quote.

Why are we providing financial incentives?

Rotorua has the worst air quality in the North Island caused mainly by domestic fires.  By assisting properties within the worst affected areas to upgrade to a clean heat appliance we will reduce the amount of pollution in the air.

Why should ratepayers who already have clean heating be subsidising people who pollute?

All people in Rotorua will benefit from the results of the Rotorua Air Quality Action Plan which will be cleaner and healthier air to breathe. This is a similar situation to the special rate levied to support public transport in Rotorua which benefits all residents through reduced congestion and pollution regardless of whether they use public transport or not.