Concerns raised after Otago Regional Council hits pause on air quality work

Source: 1News

Some Otago residents are concerned for their health after the regional council pushed pause on most of its air quality work.

While Otago and Southland have the worst pollution in Australasia, the Otago Regional Council said it doesn't have the money or resources to address it.

Among those affected is Glenn Blundell. He has a chronic inflammatory lung disease and is forced to remain indoors when Dunedin’s air pollution is at its worst.

“It's like you're in lockdown – everybody’s going on about this Covid for a lockdown. Well, I’ve virtually had lockdown since I've had this,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one surprised when the Otago Regional Council announced it would be putting its air quality work on hold for two years due to budget pressure.

“It's quite a shock to see a council think it can opt out of its responsibilities,” NIWA air quality scientist Dr Ian Longley said.

The Otago Regional Council has hit pause on its work on air quality over budget constraints.

The main source of air pollution in the South is home fires.

The council has had an air quality plan – including subsidies for cleaner heating options – but the region is still failing to meet its national standards.

“We know other communities have been able to achieve better air quality over time and perhaps we can learn from them,” Otago Regional Council’s Andrew Noone said.

The council is now reviewing how it can improve after Christchurch developed clean air zones restricting the use of high emission burners.

Now experts say it’s time for the culture changed in Otago, too.

“I think we really need to get out into the communities and talk to them about how to change behaviour,” Otago University associate professor Nicolas Cullen said.

“We're not going to change the atmosphere and the atmospheric conditions so much, we have to try and reduce the emissions in some way and that’s going to be a human behaviour response.”

Longley agreed, adding that the Government would have to step in to make an impact.

“It's very expensive to change and improve your home heating - it can't really be done on a large scale without a degree of government leadership and government subsidy”.

Time isn’t on Blundell’s side, however.

“I’ve already been told I’ve already got two years to live - whether or not I have or not, we'll see - but if I’ve got longer, then I don't want to be stuck inside all the time,” he said.