The air pollution problem in Christchurch, New Zealand - progress and prospects
Christchurch has had a wintertime air pollution problem for much of the last century. In the first half of the century the main pollutants were sulphur dioxide and suspended particulate matter, while in recent years suspended particulate matter and carbon monoxide have exceeded ambient air quality guidelines many times each winter.
This paper reviews progress made in understanding and managing the air pollution problems and then considers prospects of further improving air quality through research and management.
High pollutant concentrations mainly result from the interaction of three factors;
• The use of solid fuel for domestic home heating • Settled anticyclonic conditions in winter which result in temperature inversions • Local topographical influences which cause the convergence of cold air drainage over the central city Management has been slow to respond to the problem.
Despite awareness of the problem in the 1930s, it was not until 1972 that the first piece of substantial legislation (the Clean Air Act) gave authorities some power to control emissions. Attempts by local authorities to ban the use of solid fuel for home heating have met with significant public opposition. Contemporary research into air pollution issues in Christchurch should five managers the guidance they need for sound policy decisions.
Under the more recent legislative framework of the Resource Management Act (1991), regional authorities have the responsibility to oversee air quality. A proposed Air Plan that will see a slow phase out of all domestic solid fuel burning, is currently being debased by the public. Thus there is hope on the distant horizon that the air pollution problems in Christchurch will improve.