Govt queries WHO figures on NZ air pollution

  • Nick Smith

Latest World Health Organisation figures on air quality released today are out of step with the Government's data, Environment Minister Nick Smith says.

“The figures released by the World Health Organisation differ from the data collected through monitoring of air quality by New Zealand’s regional councils complied by the Ministry for the Environment. Environment Ministry officials have contacted WHO to clarify how it calculated its figures and are awaiting a response,” Dr Smith said.

Preliminary analysis shows the annual averages reported by WHO are in most cases much higher than what the Environment Ministry reports.

“When our figures are used, all five of the New Zealand cities mentioned in the article had PM10 annual average levels below the WHO guidelines in 2009. When the Ministry figures are used, Dunedin is the only New Zealand city to have PM10 annual average levels higher than all of Australia’s major cities,” Dr Smith said.

"I do find it odd that the WHO figures show Auckland has the worst air pollution in New Zealand when that is contrary to all the historic data which shows our biggest problem is in Christchurch.

“This Government is serious about improving air quality which is why we are spending 12 times more on converting homes to clean heating enabling 20,000 households to be converted from old fires to heat pumps, low-emission log burners and pellet fires. Fuel and vehicle emission standards have also been tightened and regional councils have been imposing tighter restrictions on industry.

“The WHO figures seem out of line with our own records which show the average number of air quality exceedances dropped to 3.5 in 2010 – the best level since nationwide records began in 2000. That is why it’s important we clarify with WHO how it reached its conclusions.”