ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AUTHORITY AIR QUALITY POLICY

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:18 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question about the Environment Protection Authority's air quality policy 2015.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: On Monday this week, 22 February, the EPA put out a media statement, entitled Environment Protection (Air Quality Policy) 2015. It states:

The public consultation for the [ what I will call the EPA Air Quality Policy 2016 ] took place between the 22   October 2015 and 15 January 2016 and included eight public forums across So uth Australia.

The Public Forum venues were promoted through t he Advertiser various regional media , the EPA website, Local Government Circular and the State Government's y our SA y website.

The EPA is currently assessing and responding to the submissions from individuals, councils, ( including Yorke Peninsula ) , government agencies, industry, industry groups, businesses and non-government organisations .

Changes as a result of the consultation are expected to include a revision of clauses 8 and 9 of the 'B urning in the O pen ' policy.

The P olicy will allow for burning in the open in specified circumstances, including to reduce the risk of bushfire s through fuel reduction burns.

The EPA (Air Quality) Policy 2016 is expected to be in operation by mid -2016 .

My questions to the minister are:

1.Given that the EPA is still currently assessing and responding to submissions, why is it that in their statement they say that changes as a result of the consultation are expected to include revision of clauses 8 and 9?

2.What changes are we likely to see to clauses 8 and 9?

3.Can the minister give this chamber and our primary producers in South Australia an assurance that this new policy will have no impact on the way that they go about their daily business of running their farming operations?

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Huge.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I thank the member for—

The PRESIDENT: For the sound effects, yes. Minister.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: I'm very worried about this. This is crazy.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Brokenshire will allow the minister to answer the question, please, in silence.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:20 ): Thank you, Mr President. I thank the honourable member for his question, although the Hon. Mr Brokenshire calls the honourable member crazy for asking such a question.

Can I advise that the Environment Protection Authority undertakes ambient air quality monitoring, evaluation and reporting, and regulates industries using a range of tools, including licence conditions, such as long-term monitoring around major facilities. I am advised that within Greater Adelaide air quality is very good when compared to national standards. However, I am also advised that particle levels are at times higher than desirable in some areas of Adelaide.

I am pleased to inform that the South Australian government, through the EPA and in collaboration with other agencies, including SA Health, have been actively participating in a major Council of Australian Governments' initiative to create a national clean air agreement. In December 2015, jurisdictional environment ministers agreed to a national clean air agreement, variations to the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure to update airborne particle standards, PM10 and PM2.5, and national product standards for domestic solid fuel heaters and non-road engines.

The National Clean Air Agreement will, for the first time, provide a formal consistent framework within all states and territories towards the cost-effective management of air quality over the coming decades. Initial priorities are focused on proposed variations to air quality standards within the air quality NEPM and relevant national product standards.

A recent statutory review of the air quality NEPM considered the current standards, including a valuation of the health and economic cost of PM2.5 particle pollution and the overwhelming net benefits of their abatement, especially in Australian cities, but it also applies to our rural and regional areas as well and the people living in those areas. I am very surprised that the Hon. Mr Brokenshire has no interest in improving the health of our rural and regional residents of South Australia.

At the December 2015 meeting, environment ministers agreed to the conversion of current advisory reporting standards for PM2.5 particles into full compliance standards. We will also consider the introduction of a population exposure reduction methodology for Australia. PM2.5 particles have a significant impact on our communities, and substantial benefits are likely to accrue through their abatement, particularly in our cities and our major towns and in the country, of course, through impacts on wood fires and inappropriate burning or inappropriate heaters that do not meet Australian standards.

The standards will cover both short-term (daily) and long-term (annual) impacts of PM2.5 particles, and work is continuing at a national level to develop the best ways of measuring and reporting on PM2.5 levels to provide comprehensive information on air quality. The second stage of the review of the air quality NEPM commenced in June last year, I am advised, to look at the ambient air quality standards for ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The second stage review is now well underway, with the appointment of specialist health consultants to review current knowledge about the effects of these three pollutants. The work is expected to be completed by around the end of this year, I am advised.

The government is developing a South Australian air quality framework. The framework will reference any new national standards and include enhanced state policies that promote the inclusion of air quality principles into planning processes. The EPA is leading this project and working with key stakeholders on an engagement plan. The framework provides broad principles to guide air quality management within our state over the coming decades. It recognises that while there are broad contributors to air pollution, such as motor vehicles and domestic and industrial sources, individual local communities, both within Greater Adelaide and our regional centres, have particular concerns that require particular solutions relevant to them.

Some aspects of the air quality framework are already being implemented. SA Health and the EPA are collaborating with the University of Adelaide, investigating the air quality elements of the North West Adelaide Health Study, including exposure to traffic emissions. The study has indicated that people living closer to major roads may experience more health issues than those living further away. The EPA established a second air monitoring station on the Lefevre Peninsula in September 2013 and a further station in the Adelaide CBD, located in Victoria Square, in May 2014.

The EPA today, of course, launched at Lefevre Primary School an upgrade of its Lefevre No. 1 station, so it too now can record particles of the size of 2.5 as well as PM10s. The EPA is expanding its monitoring capability for PM2.5, very fine particulate matter, within Greater Adelaide to complement existing long-term and PM10 fine particulate matter monitoring.

As part of the expansion of monitoring capabilities, on 24 February I was pleased to announce the completion of an upgrade to the Birkenhead air quality monitoring station—today. The original Birkenhead station, the very first on Lefevre Peninsula I am advised, was installed in 2006 to monitor PM10 from surrounding industries, and due to its size could only fit one particle monitor at the time. The station has been upgraded to now also monitor, as I said, the finer PM2.5 particles, as well as NOx and SOx.

The upgrades to the Birkenhead station complement the other air quality monitoring stations on Lefevre Peninsula, located at North Haven (Lefevre 2), which was installed in September 2013. The upgrade will help improve our understanding of health outcomes, as well as bring wider benefits for the area through greater awareness of air pollution sources, improving our ability to manage them.

Recognising the contributions that wood heaters make to PM2.5 pollution, the government introduced an interim Environment Protection (Solid Fuel Heaters) Policy in July last year, which requires wood heaters to meet and be installed in accordance with Australian standards. That was largely supported by our industry here. In terms of the ongoing review, the EPA has also undertaken a major review of the Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 1994.

As I understand it, a revised draft was released in November of last year for community consultation. As part of that consultation on the draft policy, the EPA has held consultation forums in northern Adelaide, south of Adelaide, Port Pirie, Ottoway, Mount Gambier, Karoonda, Wudinna and the Adelaide Hills. Consultation on the draft environment protection policy closed on 15 January. All comments and submissions are being considered by the EPA before the policy is finalised later this year.

The revised policy is consistent, I understand, with current standards and regulatory practice and incorporates elements of the previous open burning policy and the interim solid fuel heater policy, both of which will be revoked when the new air quality policy comes into effect. It also introduces new provisions for wood heaters, including requirements for excessive smoke emissions from in-service heaters and for moisture content of firewood sold in South Australia. The motor fuel quality standard will also be revoked in favour of the Commonwealth Fuel Quality Standards Act 2001 which regulates import sales and quality of fuel within Australia.

As to why the EPA could signify what some of the changes would be is probably because of the feedback through its consultation process. We take public consultation and the feedback we receive very seriously, and of course we work that into our policy statements as we go forward. In terms of the changes, they will come in in the timetable that I described. With a bit of luck, I suspect that will be perhaps even earlier, and I would hope there would be broad support for these very common-sense changes which will improve air quality for not only people who live in cities but people who live in rural and regional centres as well.

The PRESIDENT: Supplementary, Mr Ridgway?

questions