Key Issues for Planning

Managing the air quality effects of home heating

The main source of PM10 emissions in urban areas in New Zealand is solid fuel burning in home heating appliances.

The national environmental standards for air quality require all new wood burners in urban areas to have:

  • an emission of less than 1.5 grams of particles per kilogram of dry wood burnt, and
  • a thermal efficiency of greater than 65 per cent.

The national environmental standards for air quality further require a ban on any new solid fuel burning open fires in polluted airsheds after 1 September 2011. Regional councils are required to publicly notify this ban.

A reduction in PM10 concentrations and associated health impacts is expected as a result of the design standard for new wood burners and the ban on new open fires. However, it is likely that additional measures will be required in some airsheds to meet the PM10 standard by 2013.

Measures to reduce emissions from home heating might include:


  • fuel/appliance bans/restrictions such as:
    • banning the use of existing open fires
    • banning the use of new/existing coal or old wood burners
    • introducing more stringent emission limits than the design standard


  • economic instruments including:
    • financial contributions/incentives for conversions to cleaner forms of heating
  • education including promoting:
    • burning of dry wood
    • correct operation / maintenance of solid fuel burners
    • installation of low emission wood burners and pellet burners
    • appropriate choice of appliance size
    • energy efficiency measures
    • use of cleaner methods of home heating on high pollution nights
    • conversion to non-solid fuel burning heating devices.

See the Ministry for the Environment guidance for councils on complying with the PM10 standard for more information.

Managing the air quality effects of land transport

Land transport can have significant adverse effects on air quality, and is the primary source of air pollution within Auckland. See Auckland Air Facts and Emissions from Motor Vehicles in Auckland for more information.

There are many complex technical factors influencing vehicle emissions and their impact on air quality. Examples of these factors include:

  • vehicle fleet composition
  • vehicle technology and fuel standards
  • vehicle maintenance
  • speed and level of service
  • road design.

While regional councils and territorial authorities have no direct control over most of these factors, the implications of regional and district planning on land-use patterns, transport and therefore air quality needs to be considered. The Good Practice Guide on Assessing Discharges to Air from Land Transport provides clear, comprehensive guidance on considering air quality impacts from land transport. In addition to this, the New Zealand Transport Authority has a website specifically directed to managing air quality issues associated with transport. This includes a screening tool for basic air quality assessment.

The air quality effects of land transport should be managed as part of an overall plan to reduce the impacts of transport on human health and the environment. Any policy must be carefully integrated with existing or proposed policies to provide consistency and transparency. This is essential for long term, sustainable transport.

Some regional plans include specific policies requiring assessment of transport projects. Many regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans already include qualitative provisions requiring the 'maintenance or enhancement of air quality' be considered in RMA decision-making.

In general, the adverse effects of transport emissions are reduced where motor vehicle travel is reduced and/or the level of public transport service is improved.

Some options for managing adverse effects on air quality arising from land transport are:

  • including air quality as an assessment criterion in district plan rules
  • location policies, such as separating sensitive activities (i.e. any facility where there are likely to be groups of sensitive people such as schools, child care facilities, hospitals) from possible pollution hotspots. For example pollution hotspots may occur close to:
    • busy roads
    • congested areas
    • busy intersections
    • roads with a high proportion of heavy diesel vehicles
    • areas with poor dispersion (eg, valleys)
  • urban design controls
  • strategic land-use planning.

Including assessment criteria for air quality

Assessment criteria could include air emissions from new roads and the potential impact on the surrounding environment.

Location policies

Location policies can include:

  • recognising the hierarchy of roads within the district
  • locating new housing in close proximity to public transport (ie, reducing the need to travel by private motor vehicle), or
  • specifying suitable setbacks from major arterial roads or intersections.

Policies can also be developed to address reverse sensitivity (eg, restricting certain land uses near existing or planned road and rail corridors).

Urban design controls

Urban design such as mixed used development that aims to reduce private vehicle use or the siting, orientation and design of roads and intersections that reduces air quality impacts.

Strategic land-use planning

This could involve developing planning approaches that promote land-use patterns that reduce dependency on private vehicles.

The Good Practice Guide for Assessing Discharges to Air from Land Transport includes detailed guidance on how to identify and assess the effects of potential pollution hotspots. The guide also provides examples and discussion of mitigation options.

Chapter 8 of the Guide includes guidance on the evaluation of community air pollution effects. This methodology could be utilised to quantify and assess the likely benefits of any specific option.

Reverse sensitivity

Regional councils and territorial authorities should consider using buffer zones and separation distances to manage pervasive effects (e.g. odour, dust and spray drift) or for incompatible land uses (e.g. motorways and early childhood education centres).

Table 3 provides examples of performance based rules for managing air quality reverse sensitivity issues.

Table 3: Performance based rules for managing (air quality) reverse sensitivity

Rule option



Sensitive receptors

Performance standard for zoned areas.

Where zoning exists performance standards may be linked to the zone.

For example, industrial zones must meet national environmental standards for air quality with occasional allowances for objectionable odour; residential zones must meet more stringent targets in regional plan and no objectionable odours.

This approach takes into account the expected air quality and/or amenity levels of different zones.

  • Allows recognition of different amenity expectations in different environments (e.g. reduced amenity in industrial areas as opposed to residential).
  • Allows flexibility and innovation in providing solutions to meet the levels.
  • External air quality may prove difficult to achieve over time.
  • Enforcement would be very difficult.
  • Impractical for any existing urban development areas - only really applicable to "green fields" sites.

Setback rule for new residential subdivisions.

Setback rules are useful where land is currently  undeveloped and available.

They may be used for existing roads, and proposed roads.

  • Provides comfort to councils and roading authorities that substantial air quality protection is being undertaken.
  • Provides basic protection of outdoor areas.
  • Easy to enforce but relies on modelling of emissions.
  • The most complex and prescriptive rule, with potentially high cost of site-by-site assessment of environmental effects for air quality and mitigation.
  • Based around an achievable reduction in emissions, not an absolute level.
  • May be restricted to larger green-field developments.

Road corridors

Performance standard for new roads.

Requires conformance with a set performance standard. For example, all vehicles on this link must meet Euro IV (or more stringent) emission standards.

  • Sets a simple level for new roads.
  • Recognises future development areas, where development is likely.
  • Resource consent could still be an option for roads that do not meet this rule.
  • The air quality levels included in the rule may prove difficult to achieve
  • Only applies to new roads.

Performance standard for new roads.

An alternative option is to set the performance standard in relation to the ambient air quality based on projected vehicle numbers for the road type.

  • Ignores low volume roads where air quality is not significant.
  • Recognises future development areas, where development is likely.
  • Recognises existing ambient air quality levels.
  • Only applies to new roads.

Air discharge permits

General advice on consenting is provided elsewhere on the QP website. Depending on the application, air quality assessment is likely to require specialist advice. The QP website contains general guidance on obtaining specialist advice.

In any case, practitioners preparing or reviewing an assessment of environmental effects for air quality need to be at least aware, if not familiar with, guidance specific to assessing discharges to air provided by the Ministry for the Environment:

In addition to this, roading proposals should be guided by the following New Zealand Transport Agency guidance document: