Monday 23 June 2008
Output group 1
Environment Protection and Analytical Services  
1.1 Environmental and pollution control
LAUNCESTON AIR QUALITY – Levels of Pollution
Mr FINCH - Just on Launceston's air quality, in table 4.4, there is a jump in air pollution in 2006-07, then back to a target of five PM10 for the next two years.  That is the actual level for 2005-06.  Just having a look there, in 2006-07, the PM10 quantity increased by a factor of two, and then it is back down again and our target in the future is going to be back at five.  I am just curious about what caused that increase in that year.

Mr JONES - The table shows five exceedances in the 2005-06 financial year and seven in the 2006-07 year.  If we had a chart that would take us back to 1997, you would see that that started at 50.  There is a very nice almost straight-line curve that reduces down there.  When you are looking at five or seven, in the context of 50 10 years ago, it is really just what you would call climatic variation.  The number of exceedances of the 50 standard that we have in Launceston is very weather dependent.  If you have a lot of inversions in one year, even though you have the same amount of smoke or less smoke going in from wood heaters, then you will probably end up with more exceedances.  So, we would expect it to sort of bobble around a little bit depending upon the weather in each year. 

This year, for example, we have had very few inversions in Launceston during what we call the wood heater season.  There have been correspondingly fewer exceedances of that.  So, the only exceedance that I have got into well into May was one in March, which was due to a bush fire.  There were no exceedances of the PM10 level during the planned burning smoke haze problem.  While we have seen a pick up in numbers towards the end of May, beyond where, again, things were with the planned burning period, I have not yet got any exceedances for that period.  So this year, for example, it may drop down to two or three if we are lucky, depending upon what happens in July and August, which are usually very windy, which also, again, prevents build up.  So, the short answer to your question is that it is weather dependent.  You would probably expect, even once we have got things down to a low and stable level, that you will get small variations from year to year which simply depend on what the weather is like.

Mr DEAN - Can you differentiate between the wood smoke causing exceedances in Launceston and the wildfire causing the exceedances in Launceston?  It seems to me to be a bit of a nonsense that Launceston is judged on the environmental issues in Launceston and the council is stomped on as well if the exceedances go over and above the five mark, but they have no control over it.  The wildfires are occurring outside their district and causing some of those difficulties and the council has no control over that.  It just seems to me a bit of a nonsense.

Mr JONES - If I can just answer the first question: there is a very definite pattern with wood heaters, so when we get into wood heaters as being the majority of the cause of the smoke, you can see that by looking through the 24-hour pattern over the day.  There is that.  Secondly, I would say certainly I am not sure who you were suggesting was stomping on councils.  It is not me.

Mr DEAN - They are criticised -

Mr JONES - We think the council, together with the State Government and the Commonwealth Government, has really done a remarkable job over the decades.

Ms O'BYRNE - To get from 50 to five in that period of time is significant.

Mr JONES - Part of that is that the council has honed the issue as a local issue and has done something about it.

Ms O'BYRNE - You can clearly tell the difference in the smoke.

Mr DEAN - The council and the Commonwealth Government in the main have caused the turnaround.

Mr JONES - I think it has been a good team.