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Councillors agree to apply for ‘airshed’ boundary

Gisborne district councillors have approved making an application to the Minister for the Environment for an “airshed” boundary around the urban area of Gisborne city.

Airsheds are a designated air quality area managed for the purposes of meeting the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NESAQ).

The agenda before councillors stated that because Gisborne did not currently have a gazetted airshed, the entire region was considered one airshed.

The issue that arises is that NESAQ allows only one exceedance of the air quality standard for Particulate Matter (PM10) per year.

There were 16 “exceedances” found at the monitoring site at Gisborne Boys' High School last year.

This means that the entire Gisborne region is considered polluted and, under the regulations, no new air discharge consents may be granted without offsets.

“This creates an unintended perverse outcome for industries seeking to locate in the Tairawhiti region well outside the Gisborne city limits, where their discharges would have no effect in Gisborne city.”

Five submitted consent applications for activities outside the city limits are unable to progress without offsets.

Two are from Fulton Hogan (Te Araroa Road and Makarika Road) and one each from the council (Huanui Road), Harrison Bulk Haulage (Tapuaeroa Road) and Wet Gisborne Ltd (Dunstan Road).

Offsetting means that the council must be satisfied that the applicant can reduce the PM10 discharged from another source into the polluted airshed by the same amount as that proposed in their application.

The process of offsetting emissions “is technically challenging and requires an assessment of comparative emissions,” according to the council agenda.

Creating a Gisborne city airshed will allow council to manage the polluted area separately from the rest of the region.

Air discharge consents in the city would remain restricted, but the prohibition on considering air discharge consents across the remainder of Tairawhiti would be lifted.