Health impacts from motor vehicles

This section presents the health impacts of air pollution from motor vehicles in New Zealand in 2016. These results come from the HAPINZ 3.0 study, published in July 2022.

Motor vehicles produce emissions, including both nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).  This section presents results from the combined impact of NO2 and PM2.5 from motor vehicles.

Over 2,200 deaths due to air pollution from motor vehicles in 2016

In 2016, air pollution from motor vehicles (NO2 and PM2.5) caused an estimated:

  • 2,247 premature deaths (in people aged 30+ years)
  • 9,376 hospitalisations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, including 845 hospitalisations for childhood asthma
  • 13,229 cases of childhood asthma
  • 330,388 restricted activity days (days on which people could not do the things they might otherwise have done if air pollution had not been present).

If there was no air pollution from motor vehicles in New Zealand, then over 2,200 deaths would have been avoided in 2016.

Motor vehicles accounted for two-thirds of the total social costs from human-made air pollution

In 2016, the social costs due to air pollution from motor vehicles were $10.5 billion (Figure 1).  This represented about 67.3% of the total social costs of all human-made air pollution (PM2.5 and NO2) in New Zealand in 2016.  These social costs reflect the cost of all air pollution impacts to New Zealand - not only in terms of direct costs incurred in the health system but also due to loss of life, lost quality of life and lost productivity. 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) accounted for more of the social costs associated with motor vehicles ($9.45 billion) than PM2.5 ($1.06 billion).  Diesel-fuelled vehicles are responsible for most of these costs.

Figure 1:  Social costs from human made air pollution (NO2 and PM2.5) in New Zealand, by air pollutant and source of air pollution, 2016 ($millions)

Largest health impacts of air pollution from motor vehicles were in Auckland and Christchurch

In 2016, the territorial authorities (TAs) with the highest number of premature deaths due to air pollution from motor vehicles were Auckland City (763 deaths) and Christchurch City (316 deaths) (Figure 2).

Other TAs with high numbers of premature deaths from air pollution from motor vehicles included Dunedin City (87 deaths), Tauranga City (81 deaths) and Hamilton City (77 deaths).

Figure 2: Number of premature deaths due to air pollution from motor vehicles (among people aged 30+ years), by territorial authority (TA), 2016

 

Note: To view the legend, click the arrows (››) in the map.

To explore more data at the territorial authority level, view the HAPINZ 3.0 dashboard

 

Christchurch had a higher rate of premature deaths due to air pollution from motor vehicles

Accounting for population size, Christchurch City had the highest rate of premature deaths from air pollution from motor vehicles in 2016 (141 deaths per 100,000 people aged 30+ years) (Figure 3).

Other TAs with high rates of premature deaths due to air pollution from motor vehicles included Dunedin City (119 per 100,000), Napier City (117 per 100,000), Nelson City (109 per 100,000) and Invercargill City (107 per 100,000).

Figure 3: Premature deaths due to air pollution from motor vehicles, rate per 100,000 people aged 30+ years, by territorial authority (TA), 2016

 

Note: To view the legend, click the arrows (››) in the map.

To explore more data at the territorial authority level, view the HAPINZ 3.0 dashboard

 

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