The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), NSW councils, universities and NSW-based small businesses have launched the Operational Network of Air Quality Impact Resources (OPENAIR) sensor project to address air quality issues faced by local councils.

The air quality monitoring research and development program’s main goal is to develop information resources councils can use to solve a range of air quality problems, including bushfire smoke, coal dust and urban heat sensing.

Researchers from five NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN)-member universities will work with councils and small businesses to develop repeatable best practises for using low-cost sensors to address air quality issues.

This work will be informed by data from low-cost sensors are being deployed within participating local government areas, which will supplement data from the NSW air quality monitoring network.

The eventual aim is to create an “information hub enabling the data to be shared with the broader community,” stated, Matthew Riley, Director of Climate and Atmospheric Science at the DPE, which is leading the program in collaboration with the NSSN.

The five participating universities are the University of Technology Sydney, Australian National University, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and the University of Western Sydney.

Councils taking part in the project are Hawkesbury Council, Lake Macquarie Council, Muswellbrook Council, Newcastle City Council, Northern Beaches Council, Orange Council, Parramatta City Council, Ryde Council, Sunshine Coast Council, Sutherland Council, Tweed Council, Wollondilly Council and Wollongong Council.

“We have seen a national shift in understanding the importance of air quality on health,” stated NSSN Co-Director Professor Benjamin Eggleton. He predicted that “with strong support from our university, government and industry partners, this project will make a significant inroad towards solving local air quality issues for each of the participating councils.”

The $2.4 million OPENAIR program received $1.78 million from the NSW Government through the $45 million Smart Places Acceleration Program, which is part of the Digital Restart Fund.

Two councils taking part in the project, Hawkesbury City Council and Wollondilly Shire Council, are among eight western Sydney councils which are part of the Western Parkland Councils sensors network project, which at the time of writing was publishing data about pollutants and air quality in Campbelltown and Liverpool Council.

Other local council projects that have measured air quality include the Northern Melbourne Smart Cities Network, and City of Newcastle’s sensor network.