Smog and smoke: Pollution from Arrowtown household fireplaces is often trapped just above Arrowtown


Arrowtown’s air pollution issues have once again been laid on the table with a new project partnership between Arrowtown Village Association (AVA) and Otago Regional Council (ORC).

In recent years, Arrowtown has consistently breached the national environmental standard for maximum safe levels of air pollution.

Based on monitoring PM10 — particles with a diameter of 10 micrometer or less — air pollution is supposed to be kept below a daily average of 50 micrograms per cubic metre.

ORC data shows Arrowtown exceeded this daily average 19 times in 2019, 25 times in 2020, and 40 times in 2021.

Geographical and climate factors push the town’s smoke towards the south-eastern corner, and the issue is exacerbated by solid fuel burners used for home heating, AVA chair Susan Rowley says.

‘‘It seems ironic that although named NZ’s most beautiful small town in October 2020, Arrowtown continues to have a serious winter air pollution problem,’’ she says.

As part of ongoing efforts to mitigate air pollution levels, the study will monitor six recently-installed ultra-low emission burners (ULEBs) in Arrowtown.

The largest source of PM10 in Otago is home heating emissions, and the study will be integral to council policy and decision making, ORC air quality scientist Sarah Harrison says.

‘‘Following a review of low-emission technology for ORC, real-life emissions of ULEBs were identified as the main knowledge gap.

‘‘We are asking for volunteers for the study so we can test random use as this is representative of real-life scenarios.’’

Rowley says the AVA struggles to keep community momentum on the issue due to its seasonal nature, and hopes the project will trigger change in pollution management.

‘‘As each winter passes, residents naturally look forward to the warmer season and air pollution, no longer apparent, is forgotten until the beginning of the following winter.

‘‘With ORC having put its air quality strategy aside until 2024, this project is the only opportunity we are currently being offered to make a difference.’’