Air quality goal 'can be met'
Environment Minister Amy Adams is still confident Timaru can meet its targets for air quality - but has given no detail about how she expects this to be achieved.
Already this year Timaru has recorded 15 nights where the particulate pollution has exceeded the recommended health standard. If this does not decrease to no more than three breaches by 2016, Timaru could face restrictions to development.
Particulate pollution, or PM10, has been linked to exacerbating respiratory diseases, hospital admissions and even premature deaths.
Ms Adams responded yesterday to questions from the Herald with a statement. The newspaper has made several unsuccessful attempts to interview her about the subject over the last fortnight.
Ms Adams' statement said she was still confident Timaru could meet its targets.
"Over the last eight years, [Environment Canterbury] has achieved significant air quality improvements in Christchurch. I am confident that ECan can use this model to achieve further improvements in Timaru," she said.
She did not give any specific reasons to support her confidence.
Air quality scientist Gerda Kuschel helped write the most recent report on health and air pollution in New Zealand.
She said Timaru was tracking "nowhere near the 2016 targets, let alone 2020".
"I am aware that ECan and the local council are working on education initiatives, but education alone is unlikely to be sufficient to meet the standards," she said.
"Timaru citizens deserve to get the same guaranteed minimum level of health protection that the rest of New Zealand enjoys."
Ms Adams would not comment on whether further regulatory action was needed in Timaru.
"I would expect Timaru District Council to continue to work closely with ECan. At this stage the ministry is confident that councils will be able to meet their air quality targets," she said.
Last week, ECan announced it would increase the subsidy for its Clean Heat programme to $1000 to help residents improve their forms of home heating. People can apply to AirCon South Canterbury, or the "Cosy Homes Consortium" of companies.
ECan is also spending $600,000 this year on a Canterbury-wide campaign encouraging residents to let a neighbour know if their chimney is smoking too much.
- The Timaru Herald