There are few things more important than the air we breathe. Air quality is fundamental to our health and surroundings. Horizons is responsible for monitoring ambient air quality and working with communities to achieve National Environmental Standards.

High winds, low population densities, low transport movement and a lack of polluting industries all benefit air quality in our Region. However, we need to make sure we effectively manage common localised pressures such as spraying, burnoff, odours and smokey fires to reduce any potential health effects caused by fine particles in the air.

 The  Resource Management (National Environmental Standards relating to certain air pollutants, dioxins and other toxics) Regulations was introduced by central government in September 2004. The purpose of the regulations is provided a guaranteed level of protection to people of New Zealand from certain contaminants in the air.  The regulations prescribe:

  • standards (for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide) and prohibitions for certain activities that discharge dioxins and other toxics into the air  (burning of tyres, bitumen, coated wire and oil); and
  • standards for air quality in relation to certain contaminants; and
  • standards and controls on emissions from domestic wood burners; and
  • controls on greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.

All Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities across New Zealand contribute towards Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA). This is a national platfom where currently all of our water data feeds into, so the general public are able to access the status of each body of water around the country and compare the quality between different regions. In addition to viewing the status of water bodies, members of the public are also able to view information and data regarding water-related consents. LAWA originally held information regarding just rivers, which then expanded to include all water types and has recently expanded to include air quality information.


Some parts of our Region, in particular, have issues with air quality during the winter months because of a combination of topography, altitude and the use of home fires in that area. Other areas, particularly urban, have issues with burning rubbish and garden waste in the backyard, causing smoke and odours for neighbouring properties.

From the map below we can see how Taumarunui and Taihape exceeded the national PM10 guidelines at the time while Ohakune, Feilding, Dannevirke and Pahiatua had the potential to exceed.

Winter time PM10 levels in Wanganui, Palmerston North, Levin, Marton and Ashhurst were under the PM10 guideline.

Air quality results are from PM10 monitoring using mini volume portable sampler, 7 days gravimetric sampler in the winter months of 2001, 2002 and 2003.

To ensure our community stays healthy and can breathe easy, we monitor our air quality, report any breaches, and work with our communities to reduce problems. More information about this monitoring can be found on our air publications page. 

Guide to wood burning


Guidelines on the open burning of waste


Air quality standards

Our One Plan is a consolidated Regional Resources Plan which combines all of our previous plans into one. Chapter 7 in the One Plan explains our regional rules to combat issues of backyard burning, rubbish fires, and spray drift and odour in rural areas.

In addition to the One Plan we have an operative Regional Air Plan (January 1999) to manage and improve the air quality in the Region.

Horizons' aim is to enhance air quality throughout the Region, reducing contaminants that can significantly harm people and the environment.

Roof and chimney

National Standards

To protect the health of all New Zealanders, Central Government introduced a National Standard in September 2004 to manage air quality. In keeping with these Standards, our monitoring programme is mainly focused on particulate matter because, in the winter, concentrations of fine particles in a few locations in the Region breach the National Standard. These areas, called airsheds, are in the Central North Island where altitude, topography and meteorology combined cause inversions that trap fine particles on cold still nights.


The Users’ Guide to the revised National Environmental Standards for Air Quality provides a guide to the standards addressing dioxins and other toxics, ambient air quality, the woodburner design standard, and the control of greenhouse gases at landfills.


For more detailed information on air quality have a look at our air quality publications or contact us.


To see what Central Government is doing to improve air quality visit Ministry for the Environment website.