Leading members of NSW universities, industry and government have met at Western Sydney University yesterday to launch the Operational Network of Air Quality Impact Resources (OPENAIR) program.

The launch was part of a two-day workshop convening project participants from the NSW government, NSW-based small businesses, five universities, and 13 local government councils. 

Matthew Riley, director of climate and atmospheric science at the department of planning and environment (DPE), said the project would create a best practice methodology for different air quality issues local governments face in different communities across NSW.

“The primary objective is to develop informational resources that councils can use to solve their air quality issues,” explained Riley.

“Eventually, this will result in an information hub enabling the data to be shared with the broader community.

“The department is working with the participating LGAs, and the researchers from across the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) member universities, to implement low-cost sensors to provide additional localised air quality information to the public.

“We will also use the localised data collected under this program to supplement the data captured by the NSW air quality monitoring network.” 

According to Professor Jason Prior from the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, the collaborative approach to the OPERAIR project is key to its success.

“Working with local councils and small businesses means that our research will consider their needs and experiences, ensuring that the resources we design will be truly useful to them,” he said.

Professor Benjamin Eggleton, NSSN’s co-director, commended the project team, noting the project demonstrated the value of collaboration between the universities, industry and government. 

“The project aims to develop repeatable best practices for using low-cost sensors to address various air quality issues, including bushfire smoke, coal dust monitoring, and urban heat sensing,” Eggleton said.

“The project builds on the network’s strong capability in air quality research, which has been built up since the early days of NSSN. 

“We have seen a national shift in understanding the importance of air quality on health. 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.” 

OPENAIR is a $2.4 million air quality monitoring research and development program led by the NSW DPE, in collaboration with the NSSN.

The program has received a $1.78 million contribution from the NSW government through the $45 million Smart Places Acceleration Program, which is part of the Digital Restart Fund.

Participating universities include University of Technology, Australian National University, University of Sydney, University of NSW and University of Western Sydney.

Participating councils include 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.

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