Managing Auckland's air quality

Auckland Council is responsible for ensuring the region's outdoor air is clean and healthy. 

To do this, we:

  • monitor the air
  • make policies and plans
  • create awareness of air quality issues
  • write rules to reduce air pollution
  • manage a range of activities through consent conditions.

Find out more about our air quality monitoring programme, advice on how you can help reduce air pollution and guidance on our rules for air discharge consents:

Auckland's air

On average, a person breathes around 14,000 litres of air each day.

Poor air quality causes a brown haze over Auckland's skyline.
Poor air quality causes a brown haze over Auckland's skyline.

New Zealand’s isolated position in the South Pacific means that air arriving at the coastline is relatively pure and fresh. However, activities that release pollution into the air can rapidly degrade the quality of air.

Around 300 premature deaths in Auckland occur each year due to air pollution, of which 110 are attributed to air pollution from indoor fires (Source: Updated Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand Study 2012 > Volume 1: Summary Report).

The New Zealand national environmental standards require us to manage air quality to protect people's health. The Auckland Plan also aspires to a 50 per cent reduction in air pollution from the levels in 2006 (specifically for particulate emissions (PM10)).

What causes air pollution

In summer, the main cause of air pollution in Auckland is transport.

In winter, the particulate emissions (PM10) from indoor fires are the primary cause of Auckland's air pollution.

  • From industry, 7 per cent.
  • From vehicles, 18 per cent.
  • From domestic fires, 75 per cent of PM10 air pollution.

This affects the health and wellbeing of all Aucklanders, particularly young people, the elderly and those suffering from respiratory diseases.

The State of Auckland air quality report card gives an overview of the air quality in the region.

Monitoring Auckland's air quality

We are required to monitor air pollution levels to ensure particle concentrations are within the 2004 National Environmental Standards for Air Quality, as well as meeting our own regional air quality targets.

We currently monitor air pollutants at 13 fixed monitoring sites, as well as two mobile sites which can be moved to locations of interest.

Records show the average concentration of particles in the air has decreased in the past, largely due to:

  • advances in industrial and vehicle technology
  • better vehicle fuel standards
  • gradual move to more modern home heating technologies that generate less air pollution.

Concentrations of some other pollutants have gone down (e.g. sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide), but there are still concerns about pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide.

You can see detailed information on air pollution monitoring in Auckland by viewing the Air section of the Health of Auckland’s Natural Environment in 2015, pages 37-70 (PDF 9.9MB).

Alternatively, email Air quality team.

Air discharge consents

Many industrial activities involve the discharge of contaminants, smells and pollutants into the air. Activities that may require an air discharge consent include:

  • combustion activities
  • dust-generating activities
  • waste processes
  • food and animal or plant processes
  • chemical processes
  • metallurgical processes and
  • production land activities (including intensive livestock farming).

See Types of resource consent.

If unsure whether your industrial, commercial or rural activity may require a discharge to air consent, email Air quality team or phone 09 301 0101.

Auckland's air quality policies and rules

Air quality policies and priorities are included in the Auckland Plan and Auckland’s Regional Plan: Air, Land and Water.

Auckland Council Regional Plan: Air, Land and Water - Chapter 4 (PDF 495KB)

The rules in Chapter 4 manage the activities that discharge air contaminants into the environment (such as industrial or trade processes, waste processes and production land activities including intensive livestock farming). Some activities are permitted subject to conditions while other activities require a resource consent.

Auckland Council Regional Plan: Air, Land and Water - Chapter 4a, Rule 4.5.1 (PDF 384KB)

Provides for the discharge of contaminants into air, land and water from the application of agrichemicals.

In Auckland, several rules also manage domestic fireplaces and woodburners, and outdoor fires:

For information on how these rules affect you, email Air quality team or phone 09 301 0101 and ask to speak to an Air Quality Resource Consents Advisor.

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