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Community engagement sessions available to discuss air quality issues

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 10:00 a.m.

Ensuring the region’s air quality is improved and protected for current and future generations is the focus of a series of upcoming workshops and open days run by Bay of Plenty Regional Council

The workshops will be focused on key air quality issues in each of the sub-regions, along with proposed measures to mitigate and address them.

The issues and proposed recommendations form part of a recently released discussion document to support a draft new Regional Air Plan – a Resource Management Act document that defines air discharge activities.

The discussion document outlines the most significant air quality issues in the region, identified through air quality monitoring data and complaints received. These issues include: open burning in urban areas, Rotorua domestic burners, commercial and industrial boilers, agrichemical and fumigation spraying, abrasive blasting, intensive farming, crematoria and spray-painting.

The two-hour workshops will be held in Rotorua, Tauranga and Whakatāne, and will include presentations from staff and facilitated discussions on key issues relevant to each sub-region. Each workshop will be followed by an open day.

Regional Council Senior Policy Analyst, Karen Parcell says some of the proposed rules to address these air quality issues may have an impact on some members of the community, which is why the Council is actively seeking input.

“We know good air quality is important to our community so it’s important to strike the right balance between managing air quality, people’s health and the regulations that may be required to achieve this.

“One of the proposed mitigation suggestions is to ban open burning in urban areas, which may have a significant impact on households who use backyard fires to remove garden rubbish and general waste.

“We are also clarifying conditions around things like agrichemical spraying, as well as those activities that need a resource consent such as crematoria, and methyl bromide use at the Port of Tauranga.

“Another draft measure is to put further controls around domestic burners, such as wood burners, in the Rotorua urban area which may also be a concern for some members of this community.”

Ms Parcell says there are a number of initiatives in place to support Rotorua residents with existing and proposed rules around domestic burners.

“For example, Regional Council offers financial incentives to upgrade to cleaner heat alternatives. The level of support depends on income, but there is something to help everybody.”

Ms Parcell says although Rotorua rates as the second worst city for air quality in New Zealand, overall, the Bay of Plenty region generally enjoys good air quality compared to some other parts of the country.

“We want to continue to preserve this resource so we can continue to enjoy good air quality in years to come. Our role as the Regional Council is to manage the air quality, so it does not impact negatively on the health and well-being of our community.”

Community input is sought from Friday 26 April to Friday 17 June 2016 to ensure that the right issues have been identified in the proposed draft plan and that the proposed rules to address these issues will achieve the desired outcomes.

The discussion document is available from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council website or contact Senior Policy Analyst, Karen Parcell on 0800 884 881 extension 9346 or email Karen.parcell@boprc.govt.nz

To register your interest in a workshop, contact Paula Jorgensen on 0800 884 881 extension 9344 or email paula.jorgensen@boprc.govt.nz. The timetable is available here

Background

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), regional councils are responsible for the management of natural and physical resources such as land, air, water and coast. Regional plans may be developed to assist with this. Regional Plans need to be reviewed every ten years to assess whether they are still managing the resource the best possible way. The current Regional Air Plan 2003 was last reviewed in 2013. The recommendations from this review was that the current Plan needs updating to align with the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ) which was released by the Central Government in 2004. The purpose of NESAQ is to “safeguard the health of all New Zealanders”.

This Regional Air Plan only manages air contaminants from human activities. It will not be able to address natural sources like pollen, or hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide from volcanic or geothermal sources.

Mitigating the effects of climate change through reducing greenhouse gas discharge is the role of Central Government, the new air plan will not have provisions related to climate change or greenhouse gases.

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