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By: Michelle Mehlhopt, Jesse Aimer
The Government announced on Wednesday 26 February that it is consulting on proposed amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ).  The NESAQ is the primary mechanism for regulating air quality at a national level, with standards covering particulate matter and other pollutants. 

The aim of the amendments is to better control the release of fine particles into the air.  It proposes to do so by:
  • Amending the standards for ambient particulate matter and burner design in the current NESAQ; and
  • Creating new standards for mercury emissions to air.  These standards will help New Zealand meet its obligations under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Some of the key changes proposed by the amendments include:
  • Introducing PM2.5 as the primary regulatory tool to manage ambient particulate matter and establish both a daily and an annual standard for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter).
  • Retaining the PM10 standard for managing potential issues for coarse particulates.
  • Amending how we determine if airsheds are polluted.  An airshed will be polluted if either daily or annual PM2.5 standards are breached, averaged over the previous 5 years.
  • Declining new consent applications to discharge PM2.5 in a polluted airshed, unless the discharge is offset within the same airshed. 
  • Reducing the emission standard for new solid-fuel burners to no more than 1.0g/kg (down from 1.5g/kg).  Updated and/or appropriate methods for calculating the emission standards are proposed.  There is no change to the 65% thermal efficiency standard. 
  • Including all types of new, domestic solid-fuel burners under the wood-burner regulations for emissions limits and thermal efficiency (including coal burners, multi-fuel burners, pellet burners, open fires, cookers, and water boilers).
  • Prohibiting the use of mercury in particular listed industrial processes.
  • Incorporating international best practice guidance that decision-makers must consider for listed sources.
Further details of the proposed amendments can be viewed on the Ministry for the Environment’s website: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/consultations/improving-our-air

Submissions on the proposed amendments close on 31 July 2020.

If you would like to discuss the proposed amendments to the NESAQ, or would like assistance with lodging a submission, please contact a member of our Resource Management and Environmental Law Team. 
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