Armidale council has 20 years of smoke pollution data

Mayor Simon Murray and deputy mayor Dorothy Robinson
Mayor Simon Murray and deputy mayor Dorothy Robinson

ARMIDALE’S mayor says more data is needed before any action is taken on the city’s woodfire smoke pollution problem, however his deputy says council already has more than two decades’ worth of information.

Last week, The Leader revealed Armidale’s air quality was worse than infamously polluted cities such as Seoul and Hong Kong.

Mayor Simon Murray said the monitors had only been installed at the start of the “smoke season”.

“It will be good to get a full year’s worth of data,” Cr Murray said.

“If those readings are replicated every year remain to be seen. The data is key, not just this year, but in to the future.”

However, Armidale deputy mayor and Greens councillor Dorothy Robinson said there had been consistent monitoring since 1995, with council acquiring a NSW government nephelometer in 1999, which was later replaced by a DustTrak monitor in 2008.

“Council already has all the data available and it’s perfectly accuracy,” Cr Robinson said.

“It’s definitely an emotive issue and it will stay that way until people understand the health impacts.”

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Cr Robinson pointed to an education program put in place by the Tasmania city of Launceston, which had a very similar problem, as something she’d like to see implemented in Armidale.

“It was very effective, and included TV ads and personal contact with residents explaining the adverse health effects of smoke on their health,” she said.

“They were able to reduce wood smoke by 40 per cent, along with a 28 per cent reduction in deaths in winter from respiratory diseases and a 20 per cent drop in deaths in winter from cardiovascular disease.”

Cr Murray said regardless of the solution, it had to be one the community was on board with.

“At the moment there is toing and froing between various interest groups, but the whole community is not involved,” he said.

“I’d like to get ideas from the community as to what they want to see happen – and it has to be the wider community, not one side of the community dictating their view.”

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