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
You can see our current levels of air pollution with our
Why is our air quality a concern?
There is a link between health effects and air
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
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
The majority of Rotorua's breaches of the safe standards are in
In the last full year of monitoring we exceeded the National
Standard 26 times.
Is there a date we need to meet the deadline
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
Can we really change the amount of pollution in our
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.
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
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
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
I need to upgrade my wood burner, is there any financial
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
How do I know if my wood burner is
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
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
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?
now or call 0800 HOT SWAP to request a Home Heating Assessment
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.