Clean Air in New Zealand

The Impact of Air Quality

While our country fairs well compared to larger, more industrial countries across the globe, air pollution still affects the health of people throughout New Zealand. According to Environmental Health Intelligence New Zealand (ehinz) it has been estimated that air pollution causes over 3,300 early deaths every year.

The government gives this advice for breathing better air:

Building or renovating your home? Use materials that retain heat naturally, treat the sun as free heat and save money.
Read your local council’s website to see if you’re eligible for financial assistance to replace open fires with cleaner heating options.
Ensure your flue is clean. Use kindling and only add big pieces of wood once there is a good bed of embers to reduce the emission of small particulates.
A well insulated home is easier to heat – ceiling insulation can save you up to $400 per year.
Take advantage of Good Wood suppliers who have committed to supplying dry wood if you live in Nelson.
Help lower air pollution, fuel use, and traffic congestion by leaving your car at home, especially for short trips.
Each and every step you can take from the advice above will help improve air quality in New Zealand.

Driving and Air Pollution

According to the government’s Ministry of Transport, transport emissions are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas in New Zealand and account for 20% of all the emissions we produce. While you may think of airplanes and huge trucks being the culprits, nearly 70% of all transport CO2 emissions are from cars, SUVs, utes, vans and light trucks.

The latest report from ehinz (published in 2022, based on 2016 research) states that health related harm, caused by air pollution, is mainly attributed to transport and domestic fires, with transport having a much bigger impact than previously thought.

Air pollution from motor vehicles includes particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other gases. These air pollutants have adverse health effects including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Most motor vehicle-related deaths – 2,025 of them – were due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Our vehicle use as a nation is heavy. The Ministry of Transport’s latest survey concluded that driving is the mode of travel most used by people in New Zealand – it accounts for half of all travel time, and around two thirds of all travel time for people aged between 35 and 64. An additional problem, is that compared to other countries, New Zealand has a much older vehicle fleet and it’s these older vehicles, diesel vehicles and cars that are poorly maintained, which tend to produce more emissions. While our travel habits are slowly changing for the better, managing vehicle emissions is key to tackling air quality across the country.

Air quality in New Zealand

What’s happening to improve air quality where you live?

The government has a national strategy for tackling air quality and meeting its commitment to achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. With the figures as they are, tackling transport emissions is key to the success of that strategy.

Two of the main schemes announced under the Government’s Emission Reduction Plan are the Clean Car Standard and the Clean Car Discount, which have been introduced to improve the supply and the demand for low and zero CO2 emission light vehicles here in New Zealand. You can find more information on both of those schemes further down the page. There are also several other transport-related government initiatives, named ‘climate response actions’ all designed to help reduce emissions. These include:

Increasing the use of biofuels – Due to their higher cost compared to fossil fuels, New Zealand currently uses very little biofuel, but the government introduced a mandate in January of 2021 as a proven way to increase the uptake of biofuels and reduce emissions.

Public Transport Decarbonisation – Of 2,600 public transport buses in operation in New Zealand, fewer than 40 are electric. The government has announced that by 2025, only the purchase of zero-emission public transport buses will be allowed. Which should result in decarbonisation of the public transport bus fleet by 2035.

Electric vehicles programme – The government says it’s keen to support the uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles alongside other low emission vehicles. The first step in tangible support has been the Clean Car Discount Scheme but the Ministry of Transport states that additional measures to increase the uptake of electric and low emissions vehicles are being considered.

Helpful Resources

Air Quality Index

There are numerous organisations that monitor air quality, including our own Ministry for the Environment, which links to LAWA’s website. IQ Air has an online tool that shows air pollution for any area in New Zealand with a simple key. It works much like a weather forecast, so you can see the national figures as well as more detailed local information when you enter a location.

Other useful resources focused on the environment and transport can be found at Environmental Health Intelligence New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment.

Clean Car Standard

The Clean Car Standard has been introduced to encourage the supply of low and zero emission vehicles through a series of targets and regulations. Full information can be found on the Ministry of Transport website, but the overall strategy is based on stricter CO2 targets for vehicle importers, which will increase over time, with charges for those who fail to achieve them.

Clean Car Discount

The Clean Car Discount scheme has been designed to encourage the purchase of greener, new or used vehicles, by making the cost of zero-emission and low-emission vehicles more affordable.

In short, the Clean Car Discount consists of rebates and fees based on CO2 emissions for new and used eligible vehicles the first time they are registered in New Zealand. The higher the CO2 emissions, the greater the fee, to a maximum of $5175 and in contrast, the lower the emissions the greater the rebate, to a maximum of $8625. There is a useful overview of the Clean Car Discount on the Transport Agency website. As is usual with any scheme like this, the Clean Car rebate only applies if a vehicle meets all eligibility criteria.

RightCar offers several handy tools – you can check a vehicle’s CO2 emissions and the possible fee or rebate, you can search a list of vehicles that may be eligible for the Clean Car Discount, and there is a link to apply for any rebate you may be entitled to.

Reshaping Streets

The Minister of Transport is proposing changes to legislation, so local authorities can make street changes more easily to support public transport and active travel with community involvement. Regulatory changes could include a new land transport rule for local authorities to enable them to pilot schemes such as restricting vehicles and/or establishing Community Streets and School Streets. There are also proposed changes to Acts that would allow local authorities to alter or introduce pedestrian malls, transport shelters, reduce speed limits, trial Traffic Control Devices and many more projects that should enhance a lower emission transport system that works for the locality. You can read the full proposal and give feedback until midnight on Monday 19 September 2022 at the NZ Transport Agency website.

Vehicle Emissions

If you are already running an old car you can measure the fuel CO2 emissions from your journey using a handy online tool from Driving tests.

Every new vehicle you wish to purchase has to declare its emissions. The new Vehicle Emissions and Energy Economy Label shows a vehicle’s CO2 emissions and and Clean Car Discount information, i.e. whether it is eligible for a rebate or fee.

For consumers, they allow you to directly compare the emissions and energy consumption of different vehicles so it’s easier to choose a vehicle that’s better for the environment.

For Motor Vehicle Traders, you are required to display these labels physically on vehicles, or clearly alongside other car information on websites offering vehicles for sale. There is a great online tool from the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority that allows you to simply enter a vehicle’s details and generate a label and online information.

Vehicle Emissions and Energy Economy Label by fuel type

Local Car Recycling

There will always be a local CarTakeBack recycling centre that can help with the responsible recycling of your old car. You can start with our instant quote service and your car will be collected by a local CarTakeBack service.

Enter your rego and postcode to get started…

Finding you the
best price...

Working on it...

Refreshing your quote...

Accepting your quote...

Loading your account...