Dust up over Hunter air quality data


Hunter environment groups have dismissed new state government data that shows the state’s air quality is relatively good compared to elsewhere in the world.

A NSW Office of Environment and Heritage air quality statement released last Friday indicates the state’s air quality index was in the “very good”, “good” or “fair” category for at least 95 per cent of 2015 in the Sydney and Hunter regions and close to 100 per cent of the time in all other regions.

Despite some spikes, the government data showed coarse and fine particle pollution in the Hunter region met the new national daily standard of 25 micrograms per cubic metre on a majority of days. 

But Hunter-based Environment Justice Australia researcher James Whelan labelled the figures as “spin” which painted an inaccurate picture of air pollution. 

“The statement’ reflects the NSW Government’s reluctance to act decisively to improve air quality,” Dr Whelan said. 

“This provides no hope for action by communities experiencing the state’s worst air quality in the Hunter Valley coalfields and in Sydney suburbs affected by motor vehicles.”

A spokesman for NSW Environment minister Mark Speakman Air quality was a government priority.

“The NSW Government has a strong air quality record but acknowledges there is more to do,” he said. 

“Releasing data and reports on air quality for public scrutiny is an important component of the NSW Government’s commitment to ongoing improvement.”

He said the government had led a review of particle standards in the National Environment Protection Measure that resulted in National Ministers for the Environment unanimously endorsing standards that are among the toughest in the world.

The government had also expanded the NSW air quality monitoring network to 43 stations, the largest network in Australia.

Environment Justice Australia is calling for the introduction of national air pollution laws and oversight.

“The complacency and spin evident in this NSW Government statement are a stark reminder why we need to stop relying on the NSW Government to control air pollution and, instead, introduce a Commonwealth Air Pollution Control Act and a regulator to enforce it,” Dr James Whelan.

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