NSW annual air quality statement 2023

New South Wales experienced good air quality in 2023 compared to 2022, but conditions deteriorated late in the year as successive La Niña events gave way to El Niño.

This statement summarises data collected from the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Network during 2023. It assesses air quality conditions against national standards, for the 46 stations in the state's metropolitan and regional centres. The 2023 statement also presents 3 focus areas:


While the state maintained high air quality standards for most regions, hotter and drier weather associated with El Niño did lead to a marginal decline in air quality compared to the exceptional conditions of 2022 – the state's best year on record.

Air quality standards were met at least 96% of the time in all regions, except for Newcastle Local, which met the standard on 84% of the days in 2023. The main contributors to particle pollution, PM10 and PM2.5, were hazard reduction burns, bushfires, wood heater emissions, and dust, with an overall increase of 30% from 2022.

Despite expanding drought conditions, rural areas experienced fewer hours of dust on average.

In 2023, the NSW Government monitored air quality at 99 stations located in 19 air quality regions. 6 stations are located outside New South Wales.

Compliance monitoring is used at 58 of our stations to compare air quality against national standards. These stations are located in areas with the state's highest populations as well as near industrial activities in the Upper Hunter and the Port of Newcastle. Additionally, 41 stations use instruments that provide indicative air quality measurements and are supported by volunteers and community organisations across rural New South Wales.

Of the compliance monitoring stations, 46 are in metropolitan and regional population centres, across 16 of the state's air quality regions. This includes:

  • 4 Sydney regions (20 stations)
  • Illawarra (3)
  • Central Coast (1)
  • Lake Macquarie (1)
  • Newcastle Local (3)
  • Lower Hunter (3)
  • Upper Hunter (4)
  • Northern Tablelands (1)
  • North West Slopes (3)
  • Mid North Coast (2)
  • Central Tablelands (2)
  • Southern Tablelands (1)
  • Riverina-Murray (2).

Data from these stations are assessed against national air quality standards in this report to determine compliance with these standards.

The remaining 12 stations that use compliance methods monitor air quality are in the Upper Hunter close to coalmining and electricity generation industries (10 stations), and the remaining 2 stations are research monitoring stations (one at Millthorpe as part of the Cadia Valley monitoring project, and one at Cammeray as part of the Warringah Freeway Upgrade Project). Data from the Hunter Valley stations are not formally assessed against national standards in this report, rather the data are compared to the national standards, referring to these as 'benchmarks'. Data from research monitoring stations are not presented in this report.

At the remaining 41 stations, indicative particle monitors are used to monitor sources of dust that regularly impact New South Wales. Data from these stations are not assessed against national particle standards, but are presented in detail in the focus area Dust trends in rural New South Wales.

The NSW Annual Air Quality Statement reports particle pollution as 24-hour average concentrations when comparing data with national air quality standards.

The NSW Government also reports particle pollution separately online as 1-hour averages, adopting a nationally consistent approach for reporting hourly PM10 and PM2.5 data. This supports the air quality alert system and related health advice.

Exclusions in 2023

Stockton station in Newcastle Local region is located in close proximity to the coast, which results in high PM10 particle levels under onshore north-easterly winds. The Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study found that sea salt was the largest contribution to PM10 at Stockton. Stockton data are not compared with other regional centres in this report for this reason. Data from Stockton is presented in some graphs and discussed in detail in the Hunter Valley focus area.

The Richmond station was affected by dust from construction in the immediate vicinity of the station, which did not reflect ambient air quality. Data for these affected days has not been included in this report.