Smokescreen hides accountability

What is becoming even more concerning than air pollution in the Riverina rivaling that infamous smog over Beijing, is the lack of oversight accompanying the lack of accountability for 'burning off' on farms.

An EPA spokesman stated in The Area News on 12 April that farms did not fall under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act and the responsibility for regulation belonged to councils.

In contrast Griffith City Council's Director of Sustainable Development, Neil Southorn, was quoted as saying that local government "has no specific powers to act in regard to agricultural smoke or burn-off, or act on the subsequent air quality issues... It is unclear why the EPA say otherwise in regards to agricultural burn-off.”

While councils might be best located to monitor and act on air pollution issues, there clearly needs to be support to do so. At present the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage only monitors air quality in Wagga and Albury.

Air quality is a perennial issue in the Riverina and one which impacts on the health of every member of the community. More needs to be done to ensure that residents are able to access oxygen free from small particle pollution.