ORC air plan review more than half-year behind: report

ORC air monitoring equipment. PHOTO: ODT FILES
ORC air monitoring equipment. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Work to put new rules in place for Otago’s air quality is under way at the Otago Regional Council, but it is off to a slow start.

In a report to the council’s environmental science and policy committee meeting this week, senior policy analyst Vita Manning said due to staff vacancies and the council’s regional policy statement taking priority, work on the air plan was more than half a year behind where it was hoped to be.

The council committed in its long-term plan to notify its reviewed air plan by June 30, 2025, her report to the committee said.

"Whilst staff are working to the June 2025 notification deadline, the air plan review is currently behind schedule.

"It was anticipated that ‘issues and options’ papers were completed by the end of this financial year, but due to staff vacancies and workload associated with the regional policy statement, the review is six to nine months behind schedule."

There were also emerging legislative factors which could affect the timeframe and the content of the air plan.

There was uncertainty around when central government’s national environmental standards for air quality would come into effect and what those regulations would mean for the plan.

The council’s forthcoming regional policy statement could also have an impact on what went into the air plan, she said.

And since the forthcoming land and water plan would not cover odour nor greenhouse gas emissions from waste, they would needed to be included in the air plan review.

The review had begun and staff were in the early stages of "evidence gathering, scoping and analysis", she said.

Councillors would now be asked to consider a issues and options report that was likely to be presented to the committee in October.

The existing air plan outlined the main air quality issues in Otago — domestic heating, outdoor burning, transport, odour, industrial discharges, dust and agrichemical spray drift.

The new air plan would set out policies to address those issues, as well as rules to apply to discharges to the air, situations where consents were required and criteria by which resource consents would be considered.

The council’s 2021-31 long-term plan had paused air-quality activities, except for monitoring, until this year, the report said.