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Improving trend    IMPROVING TREND

There were just two instances in the Waikato region during 2018 where the level of fine particles in our air’s urban areas exceeded regional guidelines, down from a peak of 50 per year in the mid-2000s.

This indicator measures the number of times the regional guideline for the level of fine particles in our air has been exceeded each year, across all air quality monitoring sites in urban areas within the Waikato region.

Why is this indicator important?

Fine particles in the air are referred to as ‘PM10’ particles – those which are smaller than 10 microns (1000 microns = 1 millimetre). Sources of PM10 particles include vehicle emissions, industry emissions and home fires.

PM10 can affect people’s health, causing respiratory problems, especially for asthmatics, small children and the elderly. Some affected people can end up in hospital. For those who are particularly sensitive, the effects of high levels of PM10 can be fatal. PM10 also affects air by reducing visibility, which if particularly severe, could affect the safety of people moving around our urban areas on foot or by road.

Monitoring these sites helps councils to identify and manage air quality issues. When sources of excessive PM10 emissions can be identified, councils can work with the people or organisations involved to help them follow the guidelines mean and reduce their output of PM10. Raising awareness of what contributes to high levels of PM10 in our air – and the effects it can have - also helps people find out what they can do to keep PM10 levels down (for example, by not burning wet wood, as this produces high PM10 levels).

Air quality exceedances

Air quality 2019

Year Air quality exceedances
2003 27
2004 50
2005 38
2006 47
2007 20
2008 28
2009 38
2010 22
2011 20
2012 17
2013 12
2014 11
2015 10
2016 5
2017 12
2018 2


What is this indicator telling us?

  • PM10 levels throughout the Waikato region are good or acceptable for most of the year. However, for a few days each year in some locations, typically on calm winter days, levels of fine particles in our air exceed the National Environmental Standard (NES) as well as the regional guidelines.
  • The majority of PM10 in Hamilton, Taupō, Te Kuiti, Tokoroa and Putaruru comes from home fires, mainly from burning wood in winter. Other sources such as industry and emissions from motor vehicles can also contribute to air pollution.
  • In 2005, the government set the NES for air quality to include a standard for PM10 of 50 µg/m3 (50 particles per cubic metre) for a 24-hour average. The NES allows one day per year when concentrations can be greater than 50 µg/m3.
  • In 2011, the NES was amended to require urban areas in the Waikato region to meet a September 2016 target of no more than one exceedance per year. The exception is Tokoroa, which was required to achieve a target of no more than three exceedances per year by 2016 and now needs to work towards a target of no more than one exceedance per year by 2020.
  • New Zealand has a relatively low annual average PM10 level in urban areas by international standards. According to Environmental Health Indicators New Zealand, in 2011 New Zealand had the seventh lowest level of PM10 concentration out of 32 OECD countries, but still higher than Australia and Canada.

Check out related information on our website and other organisations’ websites listed on our Waikato Progress Indicators’ Useful Links page.


Click here to view report cards



Data for Waikato monitoring sites are available online annually via Waikato Regional Council’s Environmental Indicators > Air Quality.

Data for most monitoring sites throughout New Zealand, and for selected countries similar to New Zealand, are reported through the Environmental Health Indicators New Zealand (EHINZ) website.

Update details: Annual data to 2018 with 2019 results expected in early 2020.

Customised data request requirements: Waikato Regional Council Environmental Scientist.


Territorial Authority (TA) disaggregation: No

Other regions: No

New Zealand: No

Other countries/ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): Yes (selected countries reported by the Ministry for the Environment)