This statement summarises the data collected from the New South Wales Air Quality Monitoring Network during 2021. It highlights air quality conditions at stations in metropolitan and regional centres as well as stations near industrial activities. Data are reported against national standards.
Stations in 'metropolitan and regional centres' include 3 stations near the Port of Newcastle – Carrington, Mayfield and Stockton – and 3 stations in larger population centres in the Upper Hunter – Aberdeen, Muswellbrook and Singleton (For more information, see Defining the Network).
The 2021 Statement presents 4 focus areas, including:
- Two case studies examining air quality at monitoring stations nearby industrial activities in the Hunter Valley and at Stockton in the Port of Newcastle. While data from stations near pollution sources are not assessed for compliance with national standards, such comparisons are made available in this statement due to public interest.
- A section outlining changes to the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure (NEPM) standards for gaseous pollutants in 2021. It presents an analysis illustrating the impact of the national standards update compared to standards in effect during 2020.
- A section highlighting NSW Government's recent achievements in air quality monitoring, reporting, forecasting and research.
NSW Annual Air Quality Statements report particle pollution as 24-hour average concentrations when comparing data with national air quality standards.
The NSW Government reports particle pollution online as one-hour averages, adopting a nationally consistent approach for reporting hourly PM2.5 data and related health advice.
- New South Wales experienced improved air quality in 2021 compared to 2020, primarily due to cool and wet weather during the year reducing the frequency of exceptional events such as bushfires and dust storms.
- Air quality varied regionally across New South Wales, meeting national standards for 93% of the year in the Newcastle Local region (with 24 days over the standards), to 100% of the time in other regions, including the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie, Mid North Coast and North West Slopes.
- Fewer exceedance days were recorded in 2021 than in 2020, across all regions and all pollutants. The network recorded 53 days in 2021 with one or more criteria pollutant levels over national standards, compared with 118 days in 2020.
- Air pollution levels exceeded national standards on 15% of days (53 days) in 2021 across the metropolitan and regional centres, compared to 32% of days (118 days) in 2020. The exceedances were for ozone, sulfur dioxide and particles as PM10 and PM2.5 (airborne particles less than or equal to 10 and 2.5 micrometres in diameter).
- Particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) were the primary cause of days over national standards in 2021 (52 days). This was followed by ozone pollution on 5 days, and one day with a single 1-hour average sulfur dioxide (SO2) level over the national standard. Note that there were some days where 2 different pollutants were over the national standard.
- Annual averages for particles (as PM10 and PM2.5) at the majority of locations were the lowest levels seen in the past 9 years.
- All levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide met national standards.