Hundreds of sticky dots are proving the key to understanding air quality issues in the Mount Industrial area and have detected 10 exceedences in air quality standards.

The sticky dots capture air samples at eight-hourly intervals, helping Bay of Regional Council identify contaminants, potential sources and to develop options for improvement.

Regional Council regulatory compliance manager Stephen Mellor said the nine new monitors, which were spread throughout the Mount industrial area, were able to monitor fine dust particles called PM10.

Annually the total cost to run the monitors was about $500,000.

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"In total we've now got 13 monitors in this area giving us a really good insight into what's in our air here. Whenever we get a spike that exceeds the safe limits set by the National Environmental Standards we send the samples to an independent laboratory where a microscope isolates the various particles that are present," he said.

"Once we have the results, we can work backwards looking at wind conditions, the activities that are within that scope and other contributing factors."

A close-up of the sticky dot sample. Image / Supplied
A close-up of the sticky dot sample. Image / Supplied

Mellor said the new monitoring stations used cutting-edge technology and had been introduced in response to concerns from local residents, especially around the Aerodrome Rd, Totara St and Whareroa Marae areas.

Since being installed, there had been six PM10 (fine dust) and four sulphur dioxide (SO2) exceedances.

Mellor said although it was great to see the council's investment in monitoring providing results, the exceedances were unacceptable.

"We knew there was an air quality issue in the Mount Industrial area, but up until recently, we have not had the evidence to prove this. We now have a better understanding of what the issue looks like, which means we can address it.

"The monitoring and testing process is not cheap or fast, but it is helping us better understand the local air environment – and ultimately to help support local communities.

"Residents in Mount Maunganui – and the wider Bay of Plenty – are the envy of many people around New Zealand. Many have lived here for generations, while others choose to live here because of the lifestyle our region has to offer.

An individual particle. Image / Supplied
An individual particle. Image / Supplied

"But this area has also changed dramatically over the past few decades, and it has grown significantly, even in the last few years. Our role as a regional council is to look after and monitor our environment, so that it can be enjoyed by everyone, including the generations to come," he said.

Mellor said this meant some industries may need to do things slightly differently in the future, in order to achieve better air quality outcomes.

Critical to improving air quality in this area was the strengthening of the air quality management rules.

Yesterday this got one step closer with regional councillors approving Proposed Plan Change 13 for the Regional Natural Resources Plan. Some of the new rules include:

• Consent requirement for large-scale handling of bulk solid materials that can create dust nuisance

• Stricter rules and clearer definition of methyl bromide recapture requirements

• More specific permitted activity rules for the handling and storage of cement, flaring of natural gas and use of mobile or emergency generators.

Sticky dots

The dots sit on a ribbon of sticky tape and a new dot is formed every eight hours, sucking in an air sample every 10 minutes for that period. The tape sits within an air monitoring station.

The nine new monitoring stations were prioritised in the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

An additional $500,000 a year, for the next three years, has been set aside to improve air monitoring in the Mount Industrial area.

Air monitoring began in the Mount Industrial area in 2004.

The data provided has backed up hundreds of complaints lodged through the Pollution Hotline with numerous fines, infringement and abatement notices issued as a result.

Since 2004, there have been three successful prosecutions in relation to sulphur dioxide exceedances.

When an air quality issue is reported or detected at the monitoring stations, evidence is gathered to pinpoint the source and confirm an associated environmental impact.