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Smoke fogging air quality

By Beckie Wilson

[email protected]

Household fires during the winter months put the greatest pressure on air quality in the region, with Masterton and Carterton exceeding air quality targets, according to a Greater Wellington Regional Council report.

Wairarapa towns have the highest proportion of households, about 70 per cent, in the greater Wellington region using wood or coal for home heating, and smoke from home fires contain high levels of fine particles.

Winters in the region are less windy, and this can lead to temperature inversions where the colder air is trapped beneath a layer of warmer air, restricting the movement of wood smoke.

Historically, Masterton has been subject to air pollution especially in northern area of the town.

But since air quality monitoring began 14 years ago, the town’s air quality had “slowly improved”.

This was due to the gradual phasing in of cleaner-burning wood burners required by National Environmental Standard for Air Quality, the report said.

However, particles less than or equal to 10 micrometres in diameter are so small that they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.

Ten micrometers are less than the width of a single human hair.

Coarse dust particles such as those present in the air over Masterton and Carterton air are 2.5 (PM2.5) to 10 (PM10) micrometres in diameter.

The National Environmental Standard for Air Quality allows for one day a year above its required level of PM10.

Last year, this level was exceeded in Masterton East over 10 separate days, Masterton West once and Carterton twice.

The World Health Organisation guideline allows for three days above its required level of PM2.5.

Last year, Masterton East exceeded the target by 35 days, Masterton West by 19, and Carterton by 17.

The regional council offers financial assistance to Masterton residents for upgrading old home fires.

In 2016, 147 of the town’s residents took advantage of this.

Masterton District Council (MDC) introduced a by-law in 2016 that banned outdoor fires in Masterton during winter months.

“To begin the process of change in Masterton, work needs to be done on generating awareness and community conversations around the issue,” the report said.


  1. It says we were above but not by how much. Do you have the numbers above 10 and the numbers above 2.5?

  2. As an emphysema sufferer Masterton is a ‘no go’ area particularly on cold winter evenings/nights. Even in the car I am coughing and struggling for breath.
    Air quality is something we all need to raise eapecially with local and national goverments as a ‘must do better’ in a country that prides itself on its environmental credentials, our children are the ones who will really suffer with increasing levels of chest and lung complaints.

  3. Wood burning should be banned outright. The evidence of harm at lower concentrations than the ambient air standards is proven science, and the harm is mostly due to the cardiotoxicity of the woodsmoke causing ischaemic heart disease and strokes. Not banning wood burning is politically cowardly and I hold politicians doing nothing accountable for the unnecessary deaths that not banning wood burning is causing.
    National are awful on this issue and deserve to lose government due to their inaction.

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