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 and raise awareness around air quality issues.

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, burn off, odours and smokey fires to reduce any potential health effects caused by fine particles in the air.

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Air Quality) Regulations was introduced by central government in September 2004. The purpose of the regulations is to provide a guaranteed level of protection to people of New Zealand from air pollutants, dioxins and other toxins 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.
Land Air Water Aotearoa Logo

All Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities across New Zealand contribute towards Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA). This is a national platform where the general public can access air quality data from around the country. LAWA also includes data and information about other types of environmental monitoring such as water quantity and quality in our rivers, lakes and coastal areas. 

To help keep our air clean and neighbours healthy, Horizons' air quality scientists recommend a few simple steps:

  • Burn dry firewood, as it burns more efficiently providing more heat and emits fewer particles into the air
  • Don’t burn treated wood, household waste (especially plastics and oils) or food scraps
  • Buy dry wood early and store it correctly
  • Have your chimney swept annually
  • Ensure your home is well insulated
  • If possible, install a National Environment Standard (NES) compliant wood burner
Burning dry firewood creates warmer and more efficient fires that smoke less and emit fewer fine particles. This leads to clean air and overall healthier communities.

When burning rubbish or vegetation it’s important to consider wind direction, odour and the impact that smoke or particulate matter might have on your neighbours.

Burning rubber, PVC, plastic, waste oil, treated or painted timber and agricultural waste in your backyard is strictly prohibited. Please consider your neighbours before burning rubbish, and ensure they too are doing all they can to be a good and considerate neighbour.


We are required to identify areas, referred to as airsheds, where these national standards and guidelines for air quality are not always met. Areas in our region, such as Taihape and Taumarunui, have issues with air quality during the winter months because of a combination of topography, altitude and the use of home fires. As such, they were both gazetted as “airsheds” in 2005 and are now monitored on a continuous basis. They are the only airsheds in the region and their data can be found here. Other areas, particularly urban, have issues with burning rubbish and garden waste in the backyard, causing smoke and odours for neighbouring properties.

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

Horizons One Plan sets out our Regional Policy Statement. 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.

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

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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. Find more information about the NES for Air Quality on the Ministry for the Environment website


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.