700 Killed By Auck Pollution A Year

Yet another report on the shocking truth behind Auckland’s poor air quality - and more reason why we need to discourage Aucklanders from driving by producing an effective public transport alternative and cycle lanes.
Auckland Council’s Environment and Sustainability Forum will be reminded tomorrow that levels of particulate matter in Auckland’s air regularly exceed standards and guideline, including the government’s National Environmental Standards.
It makes it clear that the air in Auckland is impacting on the health of its residents.
The health costs of particulate pollution levels in Auckland are estimated to cause over 700 premature deaths per year and 1.16 million days being lost due to resulting illness or poor health.
The report, from the Council’s Kristen Webster, Principal Specialist Air Quality, repeats the sometimes disputed claim that Auckland has the one of the largest per capita ownership rates of private vehicles in the world with approximately 744,0000 motor vehicles registered in the Auckland region.  Our per capita emissions are also therefore very high.
Besides Auckland’s high levels of car ownership, a sprawling urban form and low levels of public transport usage -”although this is increasing”-contribute and historically there has been insufficient integration between land use and transport, and development has been designed around and dominated by the car.
Therefore, due to the significant part that these emissions play in adverse health effects,  smoggy air and exceeding the government’s standard, the report says reducing these emissions should be targeted as a priority.
Levels of particulate matter in Auckland’s air regularly exceed standards and guidelines including the government’s National Environmental Standards for Air Quality.
“Nitrogen oxides also exceed standards and guidelines from time to time.  In the Auckland urban area, air quality has failed to meet acceptable standards on average 16-17 times per year from 2005-2010.
Auckland also suffers from a visible ‘smoggy’ brown haze on  average 30 days a year.  Other guidelines and targets are at risk of being exceeded, such as the arsenic, benzene and benzo(a)pyrene guidelines.”

Smoggy Auckland

This is a mirror of other reports produced during the former local government era including reports for the Auckland Regional Council - this one just say the problem continues.
AKT reported in April last year there were 35 new vehicles coming onto Auckland roads every day and as noted from the ARC state of Auckland report, Aucklanders are driving more and in vehicles with higher horsepower.If it wasn’t for all of that – and the 17% of Auckland vehicles with bad emissions, our air we breath may actually be stabilised or improving.

The major ARC briefing, for the upcoming new super-city, on the state of Auckland, warned then of serious deteriorating environmental matters in an increasingly car-crazy city, that will get even more car addicted and polluted.

The ARC briefing over a year ago said that public transport has seen huge growth in patronage as a result of greatly improved services and promotion but warns that reducing funding of public transport (which is what has happened recently with the new government funding ratio scheme) “is likely to arrest these gains and potentially see people return to their cars.”

And now we are seeing even more Government reductions in public transport spending.

This latest report should be waved in front of the Environment and Transports Ministers with a “please explain” about their current policy to cut public transport. But the politicans think the answer is still more motorways.
Sadly the Council report makes no recommendations about vehicle use saying there have been improvements in vehicle and fuel technology, and vehicles now have to meet minimum emission standards that are becoming progressively tighter.
But it acknowledges that these factors will gradually reduce the emissions per vehicle.  However, it argues this reduction is being offset by the growth in vehicle numbers, increased number of kilometres driven and the increasing age of the vehicle fleet.
The key sources of air pollution in Auckland are domestic heating, transport and industry.
And of these, the report’s spotlight is on domestic home heating as the greatest contributor to particulate matter overall, but has received the least attention in terms of emissions reduction measures.
So that’s where it calls for action.




  1. KarlHansen says:

    Wait 5 minutes to see Steven Joyce trot out his “electric cars will solve that” line.

  2. George D says:

    Nah, Joyce doesn’t care. 700 people could die on the roads and he’d be the first to demand we spend billions and billions building superhighways fixing it. But kill 700 people as a result of pollution, and his government will squeeze every which way to avoid acknowledging the problem. And then do everything in their power to avoid actually doing anything about it.

  3. geoff_184 says:

    This is why I live on the western edge of suburbia. The prevailing wind direction is from west to east, so most of the time I’m breathing clean air off the Tasman Sea and Waitakere ranges.

  4. richard says:

    Geoff has a point maps of the smog are interesting. Some years ago I saw one and a hot spot was at the end of Whangaparoa with sea all round!! They can’t use the sea breezes blow Auckland’s problem away any more.

    Why the heck can’t we have proper emission tests at the warrant of fitness test. Also spot checks should be carried out at the road side like Europe. My car’s handbook warns you to keep the car tuned you can be stopped at any time…….Yeah have a Tui

    Visual smoke tests are useless the real nasties are invisible.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if high on the list of casualties and new asthma cases are cyclists riding in bus lanes behind diesel belching buses. Which is where some senior staff seem to think cyclists should be.

  6. scott says:

    We really have to get rid of all the old smokey buses from the CBD.

  7. Anthony says:

    Christchurch (before the quake) was also really nasty, all over the city you can smell the fumes from the cars sitting idle at its many traffic lights, The many trucks and old metro buses on the roads also made it worse, You can’t even see much of the city from the Gondola Outlook during winter because the haze is that bad.

  8. Cam says:

    Northland and the transport minister demand that puhoi to wellsford go ahead as soon as possible. It is totally unfair that greedy Aucklanders are currently sucking up all the carbon minoxide, it’s time the provinces got their fair share!!

  9. George D says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if high on the list of casualties and new asthma cases are cyclists riding in bus lanes behind diesel belching buses. Which is where some senior staff seem to think cyclists should be.

    Which is why I refuse to sit behind traffic. People seem to forget that vehicle emissions are literally TOXIC WASTE. Other people might not like it, but their bodies aren’t on the line.

    Oh, and we don’t have proper standards and testing because this government, and the one before them both outright refused to do so, in the face of expert advice. Scared of the bullies who resist change, and the evil people in industry (motor sales, trucking) who would rather do things badly and put their costs on others.

    Geoff, the disadvantage is that out west it rains more, but you can’t have it all!

  10. KarlHansen says:

    Jennifer - scientific evidence shows that cyclists actually breathe BETTER air than motorists. I can dig a study from Sydney out for you.

    Reason is that cyclists are in the open air (and even in bus lanes, generally are “in the clear”, not directly behind buses or cars) while car drivers - well, have you ever thought about the fact that their air intakes are exactly where the previous car is belching the fumes.

    Many new buses are also much less polluting these days than our general car traffic. Of course I am not saying you should sit behind the exhaust of one (and I think shared bus / cycle lanes are a bad idea to start) - but cycling in the city is much less of a emissions issue than some people think. Pity the car drivers, not yourself.

    @Richard - where could I find the smog maps?

  11. Mark says:

    I think it pays to be cautious of many of these reports. I questioned the ARC people a few years back and their deaths basically came from the Kyberpass intersection peak times and extrapolated 24 hrs - a nonsense really. It bore no realtion to what people were actually exposed to - so while it grabbed headlines, it was complete rubbish. They basically had to admit that. I doubt the methods have changed….

  12. Matt T says:

    Picking out vehicular exhausts is ignoring the giant elephant in the room. Woodsmoke is the far bigger problem. Woodsmoke kills 1100 New Zealanders each year.

    Burning wood is not at all clean, and one woodburner pumps out as much particulate rubbish in one evening as a well maintained car does in a year.

    It is hugely unfair and inequitable - Not everyone heats their home with wood, but nearly every household has a car, and someone using wood 200 nights a year is polluting 200 times more than a normal household. Polluters (people who use woodburners) are treating the rest of us like shit. New Zealand towns and suburbs are unliveable. (I for instance had to move away from Kapiti)

    So called “clean” burning wood burners are not at all clean. It is misinformation and a fraud to market one as such. They still emit large amounts of highly toxic pollution out their flues, and most so called “clean” woodburners don’t meet the lax standards outside of laboratory test conditions. Mug punters behave completely differently to ‘best practice’ and do burn plastic and chemically treated wood. Some of the resultant pollutants are highly carcinogenic and mutagenic.

    The other thing about vehicle pollution is that it is distributed over a wider area. Having a woodburner next to your house can seriously degrade your health.

    Emission standards are much better enforced for vehicles, and they are way tougher. Woodburner pollution is hardly enforced at all. The standards that are in place are incredibly lax. Monitoring of air quality is patchy at best, and is not done at all in most of the polluted places in New Zealand.

    The laughable BlueGreen Nationals put off tightening the standards (for ideological reasons), and New Zealand towns and cities can be heavily polluted.

    Maintain the rage and fight for a ban of woodburners - http://cleanairkapiti.wordpress.com/

  13. Ian says:

    700 people, was any of them a smokers?

  14. KarlHansen says:

    “Picking out vehicular exhausts is ignoring the giant elephant in the room. Woodsmoke is the far bigger problem. Woodsmoke kills 1100 New Zealanders each year.”

    Actually because the 700 people are all Aucklanders, while the 1100 you cite are all NZ together, both sound like pretty similarly serious problems to me.

    “700 people, was any of them a smokers?”

    Ian, these are statistical estimates (based on science, but still statistics, not actually 700 specific people). So the answer is “none of the 700 was a smoker”, because the “early death from smoking” people are in a totally separate statistical category.

    In reality, many of the deaths would be from multiple causes, like smoking AND smog - but there are also much more than just 700.

  15. Giel says:

    Assigning root cause of death to individuals is inherently difficult - if you added up all the causes of death as reported in various studies then I wouldn’t be surprised if you had many multiple causes of what caused a single death. So not sure in itself it is that meaningful to report it that way. Much better to say reduces life expectency by “X” amount of time (years) per Auckland resident “on average”. Statistics being mis-used in this way adds little value to the debate and only give people ammunition to shoot it down as being flawed in my view.

    Further by putting it in those terms it seen to relate to potentially all Aucklanders - not just 700 who die alledgely from it.

  16. Tim Gummer says:

    That’s two PikeRivers every month. Get out of the car, step away from the vehicle: NOW.

  17. Tim Gummer says:

    Oh & BTW, thanks for the Asthma I was diagnosed with last week Auckland #thistimeitspersonal

  18. KarlHansen says:

    Giel, statistics will always be a malleable tool. There is no “true” way of using it, especially with something that needs extrapolating and assessment like this. After all, it isn’t like the coroner writes up a “this person died of air pollution” report like he would say “this person died of stab wounds”.

    Which is why, sadly, the report is going to be ignored the same way Mr Hide from Act ignores global warming. Just claim it doesn’t exist, or the methodology is flawed, or traffic is really just a small part of the whole issue and…

    Of course, despite my gripes, it is good to read about such reports. We need to show Kiwis that in some ways, our environment is about as 100% pure and healthy as a pigsty.

  19. richard says:

    I totally agree with your comments about the false impression people have about cycling and exhaust.

    In the eighties I used to regularly cycle to work from the North Shore to the City and in those days there was no lane alongside the NW Motorway so I went via Henderson and New Lynn. Traffic was light until I reached Henderson and from there it was busy and vice versa at night. I was concerned about the exhaust and spoke to my GP about it. His opinion was I would be more exposed going for a half hour walk down Queen Street at lunch time.

    As you say with a bike you work to the head of the line at the lights for several reasons one being to get clear of the exhaust pipes. On the open road vehicles pass you and they are gone so you are exposed to the bad ones momentarily and vehicles are less polluting when moving.

    In a car as you say the air vents line up exactly with the exhaust of the preceding vehicle and I’m sure it gets in even if you close the vents. It’s also harder to escape a smelly vehicle in a line of traffic so the exposure in a car is much longer and more serious. The nose on a bike is also much further from an exhaust than a vehicle air vent.

    The pollution chart as I recall was reproduced in I think the Herald from a map probably originating from the old ARA


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