Programs & initiatives
Improvements in air quality are a result of actions and programs managed by State and Local Governments, and industries going beyond compliance with their air management, but National collaborative approaches through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) have also been crucial.
For example emissions from vehicles and small engines are a national responsibility, while dust control during a major development is the responsibility of the proponents under the watchful eye of the planning authority, and emissions from a major industry are regulated by the Environment Protection Authority. Planning authorities have a responsibility to consider air quality in assessing new developments while Health and Fire Authorities are involved in protecting public health from various sources of air pollution such as smoke and toxic fumes. There are cross over responsibilities and a broad, whole of government and societal approach is needed to ensure issues are identified and managed.
It is quite likely that the nature of air pollution measurement will change markedly in the future, as advances in technology result in more compact, efficient and low-cost instruments being adopted in Australia and overseas. For example, the concept of 'a monitoring station in a bus shelter' is being developed within the US EPA’s Village Green Project. Instruments that are powered by solar cells and small enough to be mounted on light poles are already coming onto the market.
In conjunction with improved atmospheric, epidemiological and economic modelling, these can provide not only comprehensive pictures of community exposure and risk, but facilitate an understanding of future risks under different scenarios. The South Australian Government’s strong commitment to managing air quality is predicated on utilising all available tools that inform and measure the effectiveness of policy settings on air quality.
 Council of Australian Governments; the national council of heads of governments in Australia, including the Prime Minister, State Premiers and Chief Ministers. It is the peak decision-making body for many national policies, including those relating to the environment
What is the EPA doing to manage and improve air quality?
The South Australian government is developing an Air Quality Framework for South Australia which will outline the guiding principles that Government will be using to manage air quality across the state now and into the future. It takes into account not just industrial sources, but also wider issues such as transport and domestic emissions.
The Framework also recognises that while there are common issues for air quality across the state, some areas such as the Port Adelaide–Le Fevre Peninsula area have specific needs which may be best addressed through targeted collaborative partnerships between local and state governments, industries and affected communities.
The EPA takes a risk based and ‘firm but fair’ approach to the regulation of industry emissions to air that recognises the efforts by the majority of individuals and companies to comply with regulatory requirements and deal decisively with those who do not.
Emissions from major industrial point sources, motor vehicles on roads, open stockpiles, landfills and domestic sources have a significant impact on air quality in airsheds across South Australia. In order to generate model outputs that realistically represent the airsheds, detailed datasets of air emissions from these sources are being prepared by the EPA.
Air-quality models and emissions inventories, in combination with high-quality air monitoring, are crucial in the management strategy of air quality for the Adelaide airshed.
Air quality modelling can be of either regulatory, scenario or predictive.
Regulatory air pollution modelling is used to predict ground level concentrations of air pollutants, including odours, emitted from industry. In Australia, the most commonly used models are AUSPLUME, TAPM and Calmet/Calpuff. However, EPA Victoria has changed their regulatory model from AUSPLUME to the more advanced AERMOD from January 2014.
AUSPLUME is still an accepted regulatory model in South Australia and given meteorological data files are one of the crucial inputs, the EPA is preparing ready to use meteorological files for different locations in South Australia.
The EPA uses scenario modelling to predict air pollution levels due to different potential situations, or changes to emission rates in a region.
The EPA can also perform predictive modelling to determine the likelihood of these different scenarios. Together they lead to better-informed decisions and minimal risks in implementing air-quality management strategies.
To ensure the requirements of the Environment Protection Act 1993 and Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016 are met, potential air quality impacts must be assessed and addressed in any proposed changes to the major components of the South Australian planning system (ie Planning Strategy, Development Plan, development application, and major development or project). This ensures that a proposed land use area (such as an Industry Zone) or an individual development proposal will be located and designed in such a way that the community will not be exposed to unacceptable air quality.
Within this framework the EPA provides advice on proposed changes to the Planning Strategy and Development Plans, and assesses development applications and major development or project applications referred under the Development Regulations. Depending on the type of development referred, the EPA can either advise or direct planning authorities (including the Development Assessment Commission and Councils) to refuse the application or attach certain conditions to ensure the environment and community are protected.
Planning advice is based on an assessment of a particular site at a particular point in time. If circumstances change or new information is made available, the EPA may be called on to conduct a reassessment.
 In accordance with section 37 of the Development Act 1993 and regulation 24 of the Development Regulations 2008 (Part 5), planning authorities are required to refer certain types of development applications to other agencies, known as 'prescribed bodies', for specialist advice. The EPA is one of these prescribed bodies.
Specialist air quality advice outside the planning system
The EPA provides specialist air quality advice to other agencies when requested. For example the EPA works collaboratively with the Department of State Development (DSD), the principal mining regulator in South Australia, to ensure that appropriate environmental controls are developed and maintained by the mining industry. In addition to our regulatory role in South Australia’s mining resources sector through the licensing of activities under the Environment Protection Act, the EPA also has a key role in the review of mining lease, retention lease and miscellaneous purposes licence applications submitted to DSD under the Mining Act 1971 where specialist advice is required.
The EPA continues to develop collaborative partnerships with the tertiary education sector and other research organisations to further our understanding of air quality impacts on the South Australian population.
Examples of current or past projects are:
- North West Adelaide Health Study which is looking at the impact of traffic emissions from major roads on human health. This is a collaborative study with the Public Health Division of the Department of Health and Ageing, the University of Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, utilising a cohort of some 3,000–4,000 people in the area.
- Motor vehicle emissions inventory database is a collaborative study with the University of South Australia, incorporating the Second National In-Service Vehicle Emissions Study (NISE2).
- The EPA also partnered with the University of Adelaide and the Department for Health and Ageing in a project investigating the benefits of alternative transport on air quality and public health.
SmokeWatch was a community education and behaviour change program aimed at improving air quality by reducing wood smoke pollution from wood heaters. Information about the SmokeWatch programs in Mount Gambier and the Adelaide Hills are available in the following reports:
- SmokeWatch Mount Gambier 2009–2011
- SmokeWatch Mount Gambier 2010 campaign report
- SmokeWatch Mount Gambier 2009 winter campaign report
- SmokeWatch Adelaide Hills Pilot Study Part 1 – 2006
- SmokeWatch Adelaide Hills Pilot Study Part 2 – 2007
The Commonwealth also contributes to air quality management, for example through the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 which regulates fuel quality and the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 which regulates on-road vehicle emissions. Under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act all road vehicles, whether they are newly manufactured in Australia or are imported as new or second hand vehicles, are required to comply with the relevant Australian Design Rules (ADRs) at the time of manufacture and supply to the Australian market. The current standards are the Third Edition ADRs, and include national standards for engine exhaust emissions.
They also implement measures to meet Australia’s obligations under international conventions which has implication for air quality such as shipping and aviation. Environment Ministers recognise that while Australia has clean air by world standards, there are ongoing challenges and governments, business and the community need to be active to ensure our clean air future. This is the reasoning behind developing the National Clean Air Agreement.
In April 2014, all of Australia’s Environment Ministers agreed to consider working towards a National Clean Air Agreement to ensure that the community continues to enjoy clean air and address the impacts on human health and the environment.
The Agreement will focus on actions to reduce air pollution and improve air quality through cooperative action between industry and government at the national, state and local level. The Agreement is designed to incorporate a range of existing, new and complementary measures to improve Australia’s air quality. The draft agreement is likely to be considered by jurisdictional Environment Ministers.
National measures to address emissions from sources such as wood heaters, non-road spark ignition engines (such as in lawnmowers, hand-held gardening equipment and outboard marine engines) and non-road diesel engines (as used in construction and mining equipment, cranes, forklifts etc.) are being progressed under the National Clean Air Agreement.
The variation of the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (AAQ NEPM) in relation to the standards for particles, and the review of the other standards in the AAQ NEPM, particularly nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide, will also be progressed under the National Clean Air Agreement. The EPA will continue to actively participate in this process.