Home to around 20,000 people, Mount Maunganui has a mixture of land use including residential, commercial and industrial. The industrial land hosts a variety of businesses from logging and waste management services to fertiliser and pet food manufacturing. These businesses mostly operate here for its access to the Port, supporting infrastructure and complementary activities.

The key challenge is that the industrial area impacts air quality and borders the Whareroa Marae and Mount residential area.  This complex situation has been generations in the making, with many stakeholders involved. Regional Council is committed to addressing the air quality issues here and is proactively working with Tauranga City Council, businesses, and the community.

The creation of the Mount Airshed

The air quality data captured through a network of monitoring stations led to exceedances of the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality and Mount Maunganui Airshed being established on 28 November 2019.

An airshed is a legally designated air quality management area. Due to the number of dust, PM10 exceedances, the Mount Airshed was classified as ‘polluted’ when it was established. This means that Regional Council can specifically target industrial discharges in this area and introduce new rules to help improve the air quality. However, what is deemed acceptable by the National Environmental Standards often differs to the community’s tolerable threshold and their daily experiences.  

What we are doing

In response to concerns from tangata whenua and residents about air quality, we have introduced new rules under the Regional Air Plan and installed extra air monitoring stations so that we can better assess and manage the problem. We are investing $500,000 per year to support a live air quality monitoring across the 11 monitors and a 24/7 compliance system is in place.

We are also working with other agencies and local businesses to find solutions which will improve air quality. Watch the video below to hear what we learned from the first 14 months of the air quality monitoring programme in the industrial area.

Video: What we've learnt from 14 months of monitoring air quality in the Mount Maunganui industrial area, March 2020.

Who’s involved

We recognise constructive collaboration with all stakeholders is important for achieving cleaner air in Mount Maunganui.  Responsibilities, standards and rules in relation to managing industrial activities and air quality in the Mount Maunganui area are spread across several local, regional and national organisations. 

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is responsible for making decisions about discharges to land, air and water across the region. Tauranga City Council (TCC) sets the zones and rules for the types of land-use and activities in the district, including for the Mount Maunganui industrial area. Any traffic and social impacts associated with the industrial area and future decisions about zoning also rest with TCC. The community expects to breathe clean air in all parts of our region and industry has a responsibility to meet these expectations.

Latest developments – September 2020

On June 19, the Tauranga Moana Advisory Group made a significant recommendation for Regional Council and Tauranga City Council to develop an action plan in collaboration with the Whareroa community and as a first step commission a report into the potential for a managed retreat of pollutant industries.

On August 6, Regional Council met to discuss the current situation with Whareroa Marae and the Mount Industrial area, in response to the hapū and community’s health and wellbeing concerns. These concerns include the hazards, amenity, light, noise, water and air quality impacts of surrounding industries.

The Councillors agreed to take collaborative action following the June 19 recommendation and Regional Council has also committed to investigating and addressing health concerns raised by the Whareroa community. View the meeting agenda which includes legal advice provided to the councils on the potential retreat, or view the meeting minutes.

The Regional Council, Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Western Bay Primary Health Organisation are pledging joint resources to work together on understanding this collective health issue.

On August 11, Tauranga City Council also met to discuss the Tauranga Moana Advisory Group recommendation and decided to explore the possibility of a future managed retreat of polluting industries from the Hewletts Road industrial area.

In September, work has begun to scope the potential for a managed retreat of industries in the area surrounding Whareroa Marae. Regional Council is only at the beginning of this scoping study in conjunction with Tauranga City Council and Whareroa Marae, but will be sharing more information as soon as there is more clarity on the process ahead.

Mount Maunganui Industrial Air Quality
From September 2020 the Regional Council started trialling a new quarterly community e-newsletter about the Mount Industrial air quality.

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Whareroa Marae and the adjoining community is situated on the shore of Tauranga Harbour neighbouring the Mount industrial area. The Whareroa Marae is a traditional pa site and key marae for Ngai Tukairangi and Ngāti Kuku hapū of the Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi. Whareroa Pā has been present for around 150 years, making it one of the oldest kainga in the area.

There is no buffer zone between industry and this residential area and the community who live here are exposed to the air and visual pollution that comes with these activities. About 80 people reside at Whareroa permanently and they are concerned about the growth and expansion of this industrial area, the effects on their people and the wider community and the impact it has on their cultural practices.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is committed to working through the air quality concerns raised by the Whareroa community and we have been taking steps to help address them. These steps have included increased monitoring, reporting, compliance effort and development of a draft action plan. We installed an air monitor onsite at the Whareroa marae in 2015 to monitor for fine dust particulate matter, hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide. The last sulphur dioxide exceedance at this monitor was in 2016, and the last fine dust exceedance was in 2018.

Responsibilities, standards and rules in relation to managing industrial activities and air quality concerns in the Mount Maunganui and Whareroa Marae area are spread across several local, regional and national organisations. This is a complex situation that has been generations in the making and we recognise constructive collaboration with all parties is an important avenue to achieving cleaner air in the Mount Maunganui industrial area.

On 19 June 2020, a presentation on behalf of the Whareroa hapū was delivered to the Tauranga Moana Advisory Group about the challenges the community faces regarding the impacts of the encroaching industrial area. Air quality issues were at the forefront, along with physical and mental health impacts, harbour water quality impacts, wider cultural challenges and community concerns. The agenda item prompted the advisory group to move the following recommendation:

“Recommend the urgent development of an Action Plan in collaboration with Whareroa marae hau kainga and as a first step: commission an independent, comprehensive report to investigate the potential for instigating a managed retreat of pollutant industries from the Totara Street site south of Hewletts Road and report back to this committee when completed.”

As a result, the next steps include the creation of a joint report between the Regional Council, Tauranga City Council and Western Bay District Council to address the recommendation with each Council.

We use 11 air monitoring stations to check air quality in the industrial area, including eight new monitoring stations which were installed in November 2018. Air is sampled continuously at the different locations and a value is recorded for each, every ten minutes. Each station checks for different pollutants depending on what activities are happening nearby. The data helps us understand air quality within the area and address community concerns. You can view air quality data by site or pollutant here.

To assess air quality, we measure the concentration of specific air pollutants that have known health impacts, and compare these to:

Since installing the additional air monitors, we have detected exceedances for some pollutants as shown in the table below. You can view air quality data by monitoring site or pollutant type here.  

To view our latest air quality report, published in March 2020, please click here.

Table of National Environmental Standards for Air Quality

November 2018 - October 2019

Pollutant Time covered Safe limit Number of exceedances allowed per year* Exceedances recorded (µg/m3)
PM10 Daily average
(24 hour)
50 µg/m3 1

De Havilland Way

9/11/2018 – 61
11/12/2018 – 55
17/12/2018 – 62
1/02/2019 – 59
5/02/2019 – 62
5/02/2019 – 70​

Whareroa Marae

9/11/2018 – 61
11/12/2018 – 55
17/12/2018 - 62

Railway Yard South

5/02/2019 - 70
5/03/2019 - 62 2
7/08/2019 – 56
28/08/2019 – 51 2
3/09/2019 – 64
24/10/2019 - 54

Sulphur dioxide Hourly average
(1 hour)
350 µg/m3 9

Rata Street

22/1/2018 - 364
28/1/2019 - 358
28/1/2019 - 352

Sulphur dioxide Hourly average
(1 hour)
570 µg/m3 None  

November 2019 - October 2020

Pollutant Time covered Safe limit Number of exceedances allowed per year* Exceedances recorded (µg/m3)
PM10 Daily average
(24 hour)
50 µg/m3 1

Railway Yard South

13/11/2019 - 58
16/11/2019 - 59
24/11/2019 - 54
25/11/2019 - 57
28/11/2019 - 51
23/12/2019 - 53
6/01/2020 - 54
31/01/2020 - 68
31/01/2020 – 55

Aerodrome Road

4/12/2019 – 51

Rata Street

31/01/2020 - 68

Sulphur dioxide Hourly average
(1 hour)
350 µg/m3 9

 

Sulphur dioxide Hourly average
(1 hour)
570 µg/m3 None  

Any exceedance of the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality is unacceptable and all incidences are investigated. Depending on the pollutant, circumstances and relevant national and regional rules, our investigation into an exceedance may involve:

  • assessing environmental and weather conditions
  • investigating particles using a Scanning Electron Microscope
  • reviewing camera footage and completing site checks
  • reviewing industry records
  • meeting with possible polluters.

Following the expansion of Regional Council’s air quality monitoring capability in late 2018, several exceedances of environmental guidelines and the National Environmental Standards were detected. Investigations of these exceedances have shown a single source is seldom the cause and the cumulative effect of emissions from multiple sources is generally responsible. The key findings from the other monitors show that activities on the Port of Tauranga, such as log movements, vehicle movements, train movements and unloading of bulk cargo such as animal feed and grains from ships can cause dust. It also demonstrates that shipping emissions from ship stacks have contributed to elevated SO2 in some instances. New Zealand recently decided to become a signatory to the MARPOL convention (Annex VI) which will reduce shipping fuel sulphur levels, leading to lower SO2 levels detected in the air around the Port. In July 2020, we had confirmation that the Marpol Annex VI is to be acceded to, and to be in force by early 2022 for all vessels, domestic and international. However, all foreign vessels have had to adhere to the reduced sulphur fuel requirements since the start of this year.

Producing conclusive evidence from air monitoring data is the key factor in our ability to take direct enforcement action against a polluter. In addition to wind direction and other contributing factors mentioned above, this industrial area is also a coastal marine environment which means salt and seaweed decomposition all feed into the monitoring data. If a polluter can specifically be identified, and enforcement action is deemed appropriate, there are several actions we can take. These include the use of abatement and infringement notices, as well as prosecution for the most serious offenders.

Above: Scanning Electron Microscope images showing particles collected during and exceedance event.

Our Regional Air Plan applies the national guidelines to a Bay of Plenty context by setting controls around the discharge of contaminants into our air. We’ve recently updated our Air Plan and the changes mean that some of those carrying out activities that were permitted under previous rules will now need to apply for resource consent and show their activity will not negatively impact the environment. We are now working through the final appeals of this plan change.

On 28 November 2019, the Mount Maunganui Airshed was introduced. An airshed is a legally designated air quality management area.

Due to the number of PM10 exceedances recorded for this area, upon the airshed being introduced it instantly became ‘polluted’. This means that Regional Council can specifically target industrial discharges in this area and introduce tighter restrictions if required.

This also means that new resource consent applications for activities wanting to discharge PM10 as part of the activity must be declined if the discharge to be allowed by the consent would be likely to increase the concentration of PM10 in the airshed by more than 2.5µg/m3 as a 24 hour mean, other than on the site itself. See regulation 17 of the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ) for more information. The only exception would be if we, as the consenting authority, were able to be satisfied that the applicant could offset their discharge by removing another, at least, equivalent source of PM10 from the airshed.

The extent of the new Mount Maunganui Airshed is detailed below:

Mount Maunganui airshed

The most significant air pollutant in New Zealand is particulate matter (inhalable particles) and we monitor for particles less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) at many of our stations. Some particulate matter such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke is large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Other particles are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

There are a number of dusty activities that operate out of the Mount Maunganui industrial area. Some of these include fertiliser plants, concrete manufacturers and dry bulk material distributors (such as those who distribute palm kernel). Wind and the way that materials are handled at these sites can sometimes lead to the release of dusty particulate into the air.


Since installing the new air monitoring stations in 2018, we’ve detected several PM10 exceedances that are currently under investigation. You can see a summary of the exceedances on this page within the table under Monitoring and Assessing the Air Quality or a more detailed view of the monitoring data here.

De Havilland Way

One of the dustier activities that takes place in the Mount Maunganui industrial area is the transportation and distribution of dry animal food. Usually palm kernel, this product arrives by ship, is unloaded into trucks and transported to a distribution warehouse before being trucked around the North Island. Depending on wind and weather conditions, a fine inhalable dust can sometimes be released into the air during this process.

One of New Zealand’s largest distribution warehouses is located on De Havilland Way, adjacent to a row of private hangers and residential apartments which sit on the same property title. People who work and live in this area are highly concerned about the health effects from the fine dust becoming air borne.  

Since 2014 we have received and responded to more than 50 dust complaints around De Havilland Way. In response, we have met with concerned residents on numerous occasions and have commissioned independent air quality monitoring on two separate occasions. We have also been working with shipping operators and stevedores to improve their handling of palm kernel.

Addressing air quality issues at a location like De Havilland Way, where residential and industrial buildings co-exist on a single title, is complex. Current rules are focused on addressing issues ‘beyond the boundary’, however we are looking to introduce new air management rules which would mean a consent is required for large scale handling of bulk solid materials that can create dust nuisance. This would allow controls to be put in place that will reduce the risk of dust emissions in future.

Some businesses in the Mount Maunganui industrial area produce unpleasant smells as part of their activity. Examples of these activities include making pet food manufacture, fertiliser production, chemical processing and fuel refining.

The Regional Air Plan requires that any discharge of contaminants to air does not result in objectionable or offensive odour beyond the boundary of the subject property.

We respond to numerous odour complaints from the Mount Maunganui industrial area every year, but they can be difficult to verify as they are often subjective and short lived. Odours are also vulnerable to weather conditions including changing wind directions.

Around 80,000 logs are exported through the Port of Tauranga every week. These logs primarily go to China and India, two countries which have strict biosecurity measures in place. In the case of India, where approximately 15% of our log exports go, all logs are required to be fumigated with methyl bromide. China allows fumigation using either phosphine or methyl bromide.

Methyl bromide is a colourless, odourless, non-flammable gas that is toxic to humans and can damage the Earth's ozone layer. Phosphine is generally used to fumigate logs when a ship is in transit between Ports, whereas methyl bromide is used mostly on Port.

About 220 tonnes of methyl bromide are used at the Port of Tauranga every year. Much of this is discharged to air when the fumigation process is complete, however recapture is being progressively introduced.  Currently 75% of all log fumigations at the Port of Tauranga must have recapture applied.

To help mitigate the effects of this fumigant, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require the recapture or destruction of methyl bromide emissions at the end of all fumigation from August 2021. More information on the methyl bromide deadline can be found on the EPA website and Ministry for Primary Industries website.  

An organisation representing log exporters (STIMBR) have made an application to the EPA to reduce the required percentage of gas to be recaptured from each recapture, and to obtain a 10 year deferral in the requirement for recapture of methyl bromide from ships. This is one of the issues that the EPA are considering as part of the reassessment of methyl bromide underway. More information is available here.

The reassessment of methyl bromide was held via remote access in August 2020, so submitters had the option to view and present to the hearing remotely. The dates and times for the hearing can be found here.

In the 12 months to end of 30 June 2019, 1,678 vessels berthed at the Port of Tauranga. Although these can impact on air quality at Mount Maunganui, air discharges from ship exhausts are permitted under the Resource Management Act 1991, and regional plans cannot make rules that restrict these discharges. 

New Zealand has recently decided to become a signatory to the MARPOL convention (Annex VI) which will reduce shipping fuel sulphur levels, leading to lower SO2 levels detected in the air around the Port. This will enable us to regulate ship emissions which may be harmful to public health and degrade air quality. 

In July 2020, we had confirmation that the Marpol Annex VI is to be acceded to, and to be in force by early 2022 for all vessels, domestic and international. However, all foreign vessels have had to adhere to the reduced sulphur fuel requirements since the start of this year.

For more information

From September 2020 the Regional Council started trialling a quarterly community e-newsletter about the Mount Industrial air quality. Please click here to subscribe.

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