Mapping Urban Traffic Pollution

NIWA is conducting a range of projects aimed at determining the impact that road traffic has on the quality of urban air.

These projects will help us understand and quantify the risk that road traffic air pollution poses to our health, and especially the health of our children, and to assist authorities like Regional Councils and the NZ Transport Agency in managing and reducing that risk.

Projects include making detailed measurements in traffic-affected neighbourhoods, and developing models to apply our findings across the country.

The Problem

The concentrations of air pollutants can be substantially higher the closer you get to a major road. Studies abroad have found that people living in these roadside areas have a higher risk of a wide range of health problems, especially amongst the very young.

However,  New Zealand has its own unique vehicle fleet,  climate, urban form and road design.

We need to be able to assess roadside air quality in detail so that any linkages between pollutants and health can be verified.  The assessment and management of any risk posed by roadside air requires reliable and robust models which can predict roadside air quality impacts, and which have been validated for New Zealand conditions.

The Solution

Because of the high spatial variation in roadside air pollution, and the fact that motor vehicles produce several pollutants, our approach is to study a limited number of representative locations in detail.

Models are then developed to describe the observations and to extrapolate our findings across our major road network and across the country. The models will be validated and then used for public health research and risk assessment.


Phases of this work include (click on the links below to find more information on each of these phases):

NIWA Contacts

Principal Scientist - Air Quality
Page last updated: 
4 October 2016
Motor vehicle use is generally recognised as the major source of air pollution. [NIWA].