The Resource Management Act (1991) promotes the sustainable management of our natural and physical resources and is the main piece of legislation under which our New Zealand environment is managed. In managing our resources, we must ensure that we have the potential to meet the needs of future generations and any adverse effects of activities must be avoided, remedied or mitigated. The Act also says that the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems must be safeguarded.
In 2004, national environmental standards for air quality were introduced under the Resource Management Act. The standards:
Under the Resource Management Act, regional councils and unitary authorities are responsible for managing air quality. Regional councils must also ensure the air quality standards are met within their regions.
Councils can use several different tools to meet the requirements of the resource management act and air quality standards. They can establish policies and rules to manage particular issues in their regions, issue resource consents for discharges from industrial and trade premises, carry out education campaigns and provide incentives for people to use cleaner forms of home heating.
Regional plans (sometimes called ‘air plans’) address specific air quality issues for each region. They outline a regional council’s goals for air quality and contain rules about discharges to air from activities such as industry, domestic fires and vehicles. Preparing such a regional plan involves several stages. Public participation and communication with the local community is important and is achieved through meetings and submissions.
Each council is at a different stage in the development of their regional plan. For more information about the plan for your area contact your local regional council – council contact details are available through the New Zealand Local Government Online website.
Under the Resource Management Act, the Ministry for the Environment provides national guidance for regional councils and unitary authorities to manage the air in their region. This national guidance includes ambient air quality guidelines, good-practice guidance, research and reporting, and assistance with public education campaigns. The Ministry does not have a formal enforcement role – this has been delegated to regional councils and unitary authorities.
An important role of the Ministry for the Environment is to assist councils meet the national air quality standards. We do this by providing information on wood burners, clean and efficient forms of home heating, collating monitoring information from all around the country, and providing help and advice to regional councils.
Last updated: 16 July 2009