22 June 2020

World-leading technology has been rolled out across Masterton to get a better picture of the town’s air quality during winter.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council, Masterton District Council and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) are collaborating on the project, which involves 24 sensors being installed throughout the town.

Masterton is only the second town in New Zealand to have the air quality monitoring package, including a network of sensors combined with near real-time animations, after Arrowtown was the first to trial the technology last winter.

NIWA air quality scientist, Dr Ian Longley, said Masterton was a great case study for the monitoring network.

“We first trialled this set-up of a network of outdoor air quality sensors feeding results into a daily visualisation last year in Arrowtown and found it was a powerful way to show residents exactly what was happening each day with their air quality. People were able to directly link the weather conditions with their use of home heating and the resulting air quality. As a result, we saw an increase in uptake of subsidies to change to a more efficient heating source.

“In Masterton this work will show us how the weather patterns and the geography of the valley affect where smoke from wood burners predominantly comes from and travels to. This will help us identify hot spots for poorer air quality across the town. This information will be able to be used by councils to target interventions to improve air quality for everyone.”

Wairarapa representative on the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Adrienne Staples, said wood burning was the biggest contributor to poor air quality and the additional data would help inform future efforts to change behaviour.

“High quality, up-to-date information will help us change the traditional burning habits that have, unwittingly for most people, contributed to air pollution and health hazards. We will continue to campaign through programmes such as Better Burning to help people move to healthier home heating habits.”

Masterton Mayor, Lyn Patterson, said it was positive to see world-leading technology coming to Masterton.

“We have some great assets in Masterton but, unfortunately, our air quality during winter isn’t one of them,” Lyn said.

“In addition to delivering great assets and services, our Council is focused on improving community wellbeing and having clean air to breathe is a key part of improving our environment.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how this data can be used to develop targeted efforts within the parts of our community that need help the most, especially initiatives that increase access to untreated wood and cleaner, more efficient home heating.”

ENDS

The new information gathered from the sensors can be found at: https://niwa.co.nz/atmosphere/research-projects/air-quality-issues-in-new-zealand-towns-2020-results

Lyn and Adrienne