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  Council » Policies and Plans » Rules and regulation » Waikato Regional Plan » Waikato Regional Plan (online version) » 6.1 Regional and Local Air Management

6.1 Regional and Local Air Management

Background and Explanation
This Plan addresses several issues relating to air quality. Chapter 6.1 provides the management framework for considering adverse effects on local and ambient air quality*, from the discharge of contaminants. The issue of agrichemical spray drift is excluded from Chapter 6.1 and is specifically addressed in Chapter 6.2.

Clarification of the Relationship Between Air and Other Modules
This Chapter addresses discharges to air where the primary adverse effects are to air quality. Rules in other chapters of the Plan address discharges to air that occur as a consequence of discharges to land or water and soil disturbance or vegetation clearance activities, such as dust or odour. Rather than create separate regulatory regime for discharges to air in these situations, the Plan integrates the management of the Region’s natural and physical resources through cross-referencing the relevant provisions of this Chapter at an issue, objective, policy and rule level.

This Chapter addresses the following adverse effects of discharges on air quality:

Odour
Odour is the human perception of one or more chemical compounds in the air. Some chemical compounds in the air stimulate our smell receptors. Odour is one of the most frequently raised air quality issues in this Region, as measured by complaints and enquiries received by Waikato Regional Council. Odours that are considered to be objectionable or offensive can significantly affect the everyday lives of people and can cause adverse effects on human health or the amenity values (qualities and characteristics) of an area.

Most odours are perceived differently by different people. The extent to which an odour is offensive or objectionable to the extent that adverse effects are experienced by an individual, is influenced by one or more of the following:

  1. the frequency of the odour
  2. the duration of the odour and time of exposure
  3. the character and intensity of the odour
  4. the location of the odour
  5. previous experiences of people with the odour
  6. existing levels of sensitivity1.

The difficulty in accurately identifying and measuring odours makes it a contentious and subjective issue that is complicated to manage. The human nose is generally accepted as being the best instrument for measuring odours, particularly at low levels. Methods do exist for sampling and measuring odours, but currently they can only be generally used to measure sources and can be very expensive and time consuming. Guidelines for the assessment of odours are detailed in Chapter 6.4.

Particulate Matter
Particulate matter in the air can be made up of almost any substance that can form in a solid or a liquid state. Particulate matter can enter the air through wind action or directly as a result of an activity. Particles of different sizes behave differently and can be grouped into the following categories:

  1. Respirable particulate is less than 2.5 µm in diameter and is able to penetrate the nasal cavity and enter the lungs. This type of particulate matter is attributable to changes in, and adverse effects on visibility.
  2. Inhaleable particulate is less than 10 µm in diameter and is able to penetrate the nose or mouth under normal breathing conditions.
  3. Total suspended particulate (TSP) refers to the whole size fraction of particulate that is suspended in the atmosphere. The larger the particles, the sooner they drop from the air. The human health effects of TSP are usually limited to the irritation of eyes, mucous membranes or skin.
  4. Deposited particulate refers to particles primarily greater than 20 µm. This type of coarse particulate matter is also referred to as ‘nuisance’ dust or particulate of an objectionable nature.

Particulate matter is another frequently raised air quality issue in this Region as measured by complaints and enquiries received by Waikato Regional Council. Adverse effects that have occurred in the Region include:

  1. Aggravation of health problems including respiratory problems.
  2. Unwanted deposition of particulate matter on properties causing a ‘nuisance’ and/or damage to buildings or equipment, or where the particulate material is toxic or hazardous deposited particulate matter can contaminate soils.
  3. Reduced visibility and amenity of an area.

Products of Combustion
Burning fuel or waste materials forms a range of contaminants including particulate matter and noxious gases (such as carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur).

Combustion sources that generate direct or indirect adverse effects on air quality may include:

  1. domestic activities such as backyard fires and solid fuel burners for heating homes,
  2. industrial activities such as open landfill fires, incinerators, wood by-product boilers, coal fired boilers and furnaces and crematoria,
  3. transportation,
  4. rural activities such as open fires for land clearance.

Chemicals
The term ‘chemical’ in the context of this Chapter includes any organic or inorganic gas in the air resulting from human activity. There are overlaps between chemicals noted here and those listed in the paragraphs on odour and products of combustion above. The toxicity of different chemicals can lead to a wide range of different effects on humans, such as headaches or eye irritation, through to life threatening illnesses such as cancer.

The discharge of chemicals in the Region can arise directly or indirectly from the following sources:

  1. di-isocyantes and organic plasticiser processes (including spray painting),
  2. transportation (such as private vehicle emissions),
  3. incineration of waste, open burning or chemical related accidents.

Significant Characteristics of Air Quality in the Waikato Region
The Waikato Region is climatically very diverse, ranging from relatively mild subtropical conditions in the north and east, to the more extreme climates of the central North Island. The range of climatic conditions creates complex challenges for air quality managers2.

The Waikato Region currently enjoys a good standard of ambient air quality. It has many characteristics that are considered significant and are valued by the community. Significant characteristics of air quality can be described as the:

  1. ability of the air to sustain healthy populations of all forms of life,
  2. level of odour,
  3. level of particulate matter,
  4. visibility,
  5. capacity of air to assimilate contaminants,
  6. matters of importance to tangata whenua.

The current level of information regarding air quality within the Region is varied, depending on the type of discharge and the areas affected3. Waikato Regional Council is currently gathering information and monitoring ambient air quality4. It is already known that most areas within the Region have an ambient air quality that is better for the majority of the time than that indicated in the Ministry for the Environment’s Ambient Air Quality Guidelines5. However, in some areas of the Region guideline levels have been exceeded.

Although the Region will benefit from further air quality information it is already known that different parts of the Waikato have different features that influence and affect air quality and different characteristics that are significant.

Table 6.1 Significant Characteristics of Air Quality within the Waikato Region6

Area Features Air Quality Issues State of the Resource
West Coast Waikato Exposed to strong winds off the Tasman Sea, hilly and wet.
Diverse Topography.
Very low population density.
Pockets of development exist in areas sheltered from the prevailing westerly.
Micro-climates can be created in areas of development generating a build up of contaminants.
Local amenity issues associated with:
  1. natural sources such as sea spray and particulate matter
  2. occasional smoke from open burning
  3. deposited particulate matters from unsealed roads
  4. agrichemical spraydrift.
No monitoring undertaken in this area.
The risks of adverse long term and cumulative effects on ambient air quality in these areas are regarded as low.
Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Awamutu Inland climate with some very sheltered areas, high frequency of calms, and inversion layers.* Frequent fogs in Hamilton basin.
High population density (compared to rest of the Region). Trends of population growth in these areas.
Major industrial activity – often in close proximity to other industrial areas and residential housing.
High level of domestic sources.
High level of agricultural activities occurring in the Hamilton Basin.
Moderate traffic volume and congestion (area sources) from both transient and local commuters.
Large deposits of peat.
High impacts associated with lighter winds and sheltered locations. Greater potential for concentration of contaminants during calm periods.
Local amenity issues associated with discharges of/from:
  1. odour
  2. deposited particulate matter
  3. vehicle emission
  4. agrichemical spraydrift
  5. home heating during the winter months, BBQ’s in the summer months
  6. smoke from backyard burning and open fires
  7. peat fires causing reduction in amenity and visibility.
Cumulative issues associated with:
  1. competing uses on air quality from industrial and domestic sources
  2. density of activities/sources
  3. population growth
  4. discharges from home heating during the winter months.
Exceedances and near exceedances of ambient air quality guidelines levels for CO, PM10.
Emissions inventory has shown that a risk of high levels of PM10, CO, NOx, from home heating, transportation and industrial sources7].
Hauraki Plains High frequency of calm periods, inversion layers often occur.
Moderate population density, limited mainly to small settlements.
Intensive agriculture, and some isolated industry.
Large deposits of peat.
Few major sources at present.
High impacts associated with lighter winds and sheltered locations. Greater potential for concentration of air pollution during calm periods.
Local amenity issues associated with:
  1. odour
  2. deposited particulate matter in windy periods
  3. agrichemical spraydrift
  4. smoke from open fires
peat fires causing reduction in amenity and visibility.
No monitoring data for this area.
Ambient air quality mostly at acceptable levels.
The risk of adverse long term and cumulative effects on air quality in these areas is regarded as low.
Inland King Country and South Waikato Cool damp winters. Areas in valleys often have very light winds. Inversion layers are common during the winter especially at Tokoroa and Reporoa.
Areas of moderate population and traffic. These are limited to settlements and highways.
Moderate levels of agriculture with high stock numbers.
Pockets of industrial activity such as in Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Putaruru that contain large sources of contaminants to air.
Micro-climates in some areas cause a build up of contaminants.
Local amenity issues associated with discharges of:
  1. odour
  2. deposited particulate matter
  3. smoke from domestic home heating
  4. backyard burning
  5. large industrial sources.

Cumulative effects associated with discharges from:
  1. home heating during the winter months
large industrial sources.
Monitoring has been started in this area but there are no results available as yet.
Emissions inventories show large amounts of contaminants from domestic sources are being released in defined areas.
Monitoring is being undertaken, concentrating on these areas8.
Nationally significant cave and karst systems (Waitomo). Increased use in tourist caves causes changes in air quality (CO2 build-up) leading to associated effects on the cave ecosystem. No monitoring data in this area
Taupo, Rotorua (including geothermal areas) Cool winters, with moderate winds. Inversion layers can occur during fine weather.
Significant geothermal areas.
Moderate population levels, expanding in the summer months. Significant levels of tourism/transient population.
Competing activities for the air resource, specifically between tourism values and industrial discharges.
Odours and gaseous contaminants emitted from geothermal areas.
Local and cumulative effects associated with discharges from home heating during the winter months.
Hydrogen sulphide monitoring has been undertaken as part of resource consent processes.
Hydrogen sulphide levels are naturally high in the geothermal areas.
Ambient air quality is generally acceptable with some possible build up during calm periods.
Risks to ambient air quality due to domestic heating and development of geothermal resources.
Tongariro National Park Exposed, high winds, extremes in temperature, high altitudes.
Low population density, sensitive ecosystems, pristine state.
No development in this area.
Currently few issues, but potential impact from local sources of emissions.
Volcanic and geothermal emissions contribute significantly to background levels of air quality in surrounding areas.
No monitoring undertaken in this area.
Ambient air quality regarded as being within acceptable levels, although threatened during times of volcanic activity.
Some passive sampling during eruptions.
The risks of adverse long term and cumulative effects in these areas are regarded as low.
Coromandel Peninsula Moderately warm with sea breezes common. The area is exposed to prevailing weather conditions.
Geographically close to the Auckland Region.
Moderate population levels, expanding in the summer months with tourism. Population generally in areas defined by topography.
Low level of development.
In fine, warm and calm conditions this area experiences photochemical smog originating from the transport sector within the Auckland Region affecting visual clarity.
Local amenity issues associated with discharges from:
  1. odour
  2. deposited particulate matter
  3. home heating.
No monitoring at this stage. Potential ozone monitoring over the summer.
Ambient air quality generally acceptable.
Risk that pollution generated in Auckland will degrade the air quality characteristics of the area, particularly visibility.
Bombay Hills (southern side) Inversion layers can occur during fine weather. Frequent fogs.
Geographically close to and down wind from the Auckland Region.
Population is moderately dense relative to other areas of the Waikato Region.
Commercial vegetable production orchards, maize and asparagus crops in Bombay area. Subsequent high use of agrichemicals.
In fine, warm and calm conditions this area experiences high levels of photochemical smog originating from the transport sector within the Auckland Region affecting visibility.
Local amenity issues associated with:
  1. spray drift.
  2. odour
  3. deposited particulate matter from land disturbance.
Ambient air quality generally acceptable.
Risk that pollution generated in Auckland will degrade the air quality characteristics of the area, particularly visibility.
Monitoring of ground water has been undertaken to investigate the impacts of agrichemicals in this area.
Pesticides have been found in 74% of Pukekohe/Pukekawa groundwater wells and 54% of Hamilton basin/Southern Hauraki groundwater wells sampled.

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