For an allergy sufferer, a truly liveable city is one in which environmental factors that trigger allergic responses are minimal or non-existent.

It's a city that elevates health, happiness and quality of life for its citizens.

At Allergy New Zealand, we are about to enter our busiest period of the year - the allergy season.

While most people will be celebrating the end of what has been a long winter, a third of the country - therefore around 500,000 Aucklanders - are pulling out the tissues in preparation for the arrival of a new round of ailments caused by seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.


Five hundred thousand Aucklanders are about to sniff and sneeze their way through spring and summer with itchy eyes and, for the more unfortunate, nose bleeds, headaches, nausea and dizziness.

Per capita, New Zealand is among the highest hay fever-suffering countries in the world.
A major hay fever aggravator in New Zealand is pollen - specifically wind-borne pollen.
In New Zealand our clean-greenness is a source of immense national pride.

Not only is it a driver of international tourism, it's had an impact on our lifestyle and our psyches.

We are an outdoorsy people.

However our green outlook has come at a huge cost to allergy sufferers.

More trees and grass means more pollen and, subsequently, our proximity to the sea means we are a windy nation: airborne pollen has a very regular bus.

But it's not just irritating for sufferers - this common allergy is a heavy weight on our health system.

Allergic rhinitis has been found to be an extremely common trigger for asthma in both children and adults - it can exacerbate asthma and make diagnoses more difficult.


Patients with allergic rhinitis also suffer more frequent and prolonged respiratory infections.

Persistent symptoms and poor quality sleep can result in lethargy, poor concentration and behavioural changes. It can increase sleep apnoea. It can impact learning for young children.

There are a few things we are asking the Auckland Council to consider.

The first is in all green planning and landscape development to consider the impact allergenic pollen production has on Aucklanders now and into the future.

Remove the likely culprits, plant a diverse range of species, choose female plants or plants with low allergy impact, and exercise control and maintenance strategies with allergy-conscious botanists and gardeners.

The second is about grass.

Long, uncut grass produces higher levels of pollen.

As a city, we love our parks and green spaces however the council need to make sure grass length and quality is under control.

Ideally, we'd like the Council to take back responsibility for mowing residential grass verges, particularly in the lead up to and during the allergy season.

We also appeal to the council to investigate the potential impact climate change could have on pollen production and allergy seasons into the future.

At the end of last year, the Christchurch City Council agreed to remove birch trees on council-owned land, where residents could prove the trees are the cause of allergy symptoms.

The birch is a well-known producer of a highly allergenic pollen, which exasperates hay fever, among other responses.

While the decision is not supported by all Cantabrians - of course, they're cutting down trees - the Christchurch City Council made that decision to increase the quality of life for allergy sufferers and that is commendable.

We hope in five, 10 and certainly 20 years' time that hay fever sufferers in Auckland can spend spring and summer outdoors without discomfort.

We hope the Auckland Plan will develop an Auckland that is clean, green and sneeze-free.

• Mark Dixon is chief executive of Allergy New Zealand