District Air Quality

Territorial authorities do not have a specific air quality management function under the RMA. However, territorial authorities do have the primary responsibility for land use which includes the location of activities that may discharge contaminants to air such as industry, intensive farming, agrichemical spray drift and motor vehicles). These activities can be partly managed through district plan provisions.

Territorial authorities are also able to make bylaws under the Local Government Act 2002. This could include bylaws for the purpose of:

s.145 (b)   protecting, promoting and maintaining public health and safety;

Regulation 28 of the national environmental standards for air quality provides for bylaws to be more stringent than the regulations.

As an example, Rotorua District Council, in collaboration with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, has developed the (Rotorua) Air Quality Control Bylaw 2010. This requires:

  • only approved (clean) wood burners and pellet fires can be installed in the Rotorua Airshed
  • from 1 May 2012, an owner of a house cannot sell it with a working open fire or non-compliant burner
  • from 1 May 2015, there is a ban on using (all) indoor open fires.

Territorial authorities also issue consents under the Building Act relating to (amongst other things) domestic fires. Territorial authorities therefore, should ensure these are compliant with the design standards for emissions and efficiency in the national environmental standards for air quality.

A good working relationship between regional councils and territorial authorities can significantly assist in effectively and efficiently addressing air quality issues.

Identification of issues - district plan

Specific air quality issues that territorial authorities should consider are:

  • sensitivity and reverse sensitivity of land uses
  • the air quality effects of land transport
  • any functions for air quality that have been transferred to them under s33 of the RMA.

Sensitivity and reverse sensitivity

Territorial authorities should consider both sensitivity and reverse sensitivity effects when considering where to locate new developments. For example, a territorial authority may consider using activity status, buffer zones or separation distances to both protect new development from pollution and potentially polluting industry from unreasonable constraints imposed by new development.

Responding to issues - district plan

District plans include objectives, policies and rules to manage the effects of land use and transport on the environment, which can include effects on air quality.

When developing district plans, territorial authorities need to consider the role of regional councils in managing air discharge matters. Territorial authorities should work with the regional council to address air quality issues identified in the regional policy statement or regional plan. The integration of regional council and territorial authority roles is critical for effective air quality management.

Rules in a district plan could include requiring bufferzones to manage air quality effects that are qualitative in nature (such as odour) and sensitivity and reverse sensitivity effects. Some district plans have integrated air quality issues into other parts of the plan. Sensitivity and reverse sensitivity of land uses are often considered with other rural or industrial amenity issues, and the air quality effects of transport with other transport issues.

A territorial authority will also need to consider the potential impacts of the national environmental standards for air quality on any outline plan and new notice of requirement. A designation and/or land use may include conditions relating to air quality (e.g. a large supermarket granted consent with conditions relating to the use of service vehicles) and the national environmental standards for air quality.

Information requirements for resource consents - district plan

Where air quality is a relevant issue, assessment criteria should require the following matters to be addressed:

  • the suitability of the site and the surrounding environment for the proposed activity
  • the impact on amenity values
  • the prevention of nuisance
  • the impact on the road, transport networks and surrounding environment
  • the risk and impact of potential pollution insofar as it may affect other land uses.

A land-use consent can include conditions relating to the air standards, insofar as it is relevant to the functions of the territorial authority and the application.