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Air quality management policies

The main sources of air pollutants in Queensland are transport and industrial activities, but rural and domestic activities also play a role.

The range of contributing factors makes air quality management a complex mix of local, state and national measures.

It can sometimes be challenging to work out how much control measures have improved air quality when unpredictable natural events and climate cycles (such as bush fires from lightning strikes, dust storms, temperature and rainfall) occur.

National

The National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure 1998 establishes national goals for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxideparticles and lead.

Australian Design Rules (ADRs), under the Commonwealth Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989, set emission standards for new vehicles. Ongoing tightening of ADRs over the last 20 years has resulted in significant reductions in emissions of lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particles.

The Commonwealth Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 sets national quality standards for a wide range of fuel quality properties to reduce emissions or improve engine performance.

State

At the state level, the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and the Environmental Protection Regulations 2008 establish a list of industrial activities (called environmentally-relevant activities—ERAs) that must have a current development approval or environmental authority.

To prevent or minimise environmental harm, a person carrying out an activity must take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure that best practices in environmental management are used. Conditions of approval may include:

  • limits on emissions of air pollutants
  • requirements to monitor emissions or ambient air quality.

The Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008 (Air EPP) establishes long-term objectives for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, particleslead and a number of air toxics.

Decisions regarding conditions of approval for ERAs must consider these objectives. Proposals for new ERAs may require atmospheric dispersion modelling to determine the potential impact of air emissions.

Regional (South East Queensland)

At the regional level, planning arrangements including the South East Queensland regional plan 2009–31 and local government planning schemes under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, make major contributions to air-quality management.

They help determine the pattern of development in South East Queensland by:

  • establishing the location and nature of major infrastructure
  • setting up goals and processes to guide development decisions at regional, suburban and local scales.

The South East Queensland regional transport planning initiatives aim to:

  • increase the use of public transport, walking and cycling
  • reduce emissions from vehicles through improved maintenance and driving techniques, as well as greater use of low emission vehicles.

Also, the Queensland Government and the Bureau of Meteorology work together to ensure controlled burning takes place under conditions that lead to the rapid dispersion of smoke away from populated areas, and does not proceed if air quality is already poor.

Outcomes

Following these approaches, we monitor air quality throughout Queensland, and have recorded very few breaches of either the Air EPP objectives or national goals in recent years.

While trends are often difficult to determine because of overlying climate cycles, there is evidence of steady or slightly improving performance, despite rapid growth in population and economic activity, particularly in South East Queensland. View regional and South East Queensland air quality trends.