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National Environmental Standards for air quality

National Environmental Standards for air quality

Updated 3 July 2015 12:52pm

The Ministry for the Environment introduced national environment standards for air quality in October 2004. The 14 standards include:

  • seven standards banning activities that discharge significant quantities of dioxins and other toxics into the air (prohibited activities);
  • five standards for ambient (outdoor) air quality;
  • a design standard for new wood burners installed in urban areas; and
  • a requirement for landfills over 1 million tonnes of refuse to collect greenhouse gas emissions.

The standards are mandatory regulations introduced through sections 43 and 44 of the RMA.They automatically supersede local controls placed by local government unless the local government controls are stricter.

Prohibited Activities

You can read these prohibited activity regulations on this site (see link on the sidebar at the left).

Ambient Air Quality Standards

Five ambient (outdoor) air standards will be effective from September 2005. The pollutants covered are:

  • fine particles (PM 10)
  • nitrogen dioxide (NO 2)
  • ozone (O 3)
  • sulphur dioxide (SO 2)
  • carbon monoxide (CO).

Regional Councils must identify areas where air quality is likely, or known to exceed the national air quality standard. There are known as airsheds (see airshed map). Regional councils must monitor air quality for pollutants that will exceed the standard and publicly report any exceedances.


    Airshed map


    Wood burners

    A design and efficiency standard has been introduced (effective from September 2005) for new wood burners in urban areas all new wood burners in urban areas must have a discharge limit of less than 1.5 grams of fine particles per kilogram of wood burnt and a thermal efficiency of greater than 65 percent. There is a list of approved wood burners on the Ministry for the Environment web site.

    Greenhouse gas emissions from landfills

    The standard requires the collection and destruction of methane gas at all landfill sites with a total design capacity greater than 1 million tonnes of refuse.The regulation sets standards for the flaring of the gas, but also allows for destruction of collected gas via beneficial uses of methane such as electricity generation.