Australia’s Top 10 Most Polluted Postcodes Named

An environmental organization has named Australia’s 10 most polluted zip codes after analyzing emissions data from some of the country’s biggest air polluters.

Australia's Top 10 Most Polluted Postcodes Named

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has taken a deep dive into the National Pollutant Inventory, which contains emissions data reported from power plants, mines, and factories across the country.

To classify cities, the ACF focused on the number of emissions of five hazardous air pollutants: sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxides, and coarse and fine particulates.

Unsurprisingly, the analysis found six of the ten zip codes with the highest air pollution are home to a coal-fired power plant or coal mine.

Matt Rose, the ACF’s economics and democracy program manager, said the data emphasized the importance of a rapid transition to renewable energy to ensure these communities received some relief from air pollution.

“We need a clear plan to phase out coal plants to provide security for the communities living around the plants,” he said.

Mr. Rose acknowledged that the National Pollution Inventory does not have data on the number of traffic emissions around Australia, which he said was “a concern”. However, he noted that the disparity in data only emphasized the need for better national guidelines on pollution so that all communities were equally protected.

“Unfortunately, traffic pollution is not handled the same way, and we would like to see more pollution monitoring and reporting,” said Mr. Rose.

Camera icon The Australian Conservation Foundation has revealed Australia’s most polluted cities. Credit: News Corp Australia

“We think there should be a standard and more nationally consistent regulation that ensures that communities are not exposed to hazardous pollution, and that means making sure that the available technology is applied to these communities afterward.”

With 3,000 deaths a year from air pollution, the ACF believes the report shows how ubiquitous and dangerous air pollution can be for all Australians.

“As an indicator of what’s happening in communities and where there is pollution and where there are facilities that are polluting, it’s a pretty good starting point and foundation to work on,” said Mr. Rose.


1. Mount Isa, Qld

According to the ACF, Mount Isa in northwestern Queensland is the Australian city with the highest air pollution in 2022.

Born around the silver, copper, zinc, and lead mines, the city is home to Mount Isa Mines – one of the most productive single mines in history. The ACF found that the mine was also the largest contributor to all five pollutants, accounting for 91 percent of the region’s total pollutants.

A 2017 University of Queensland study found the Mount Isa community was living with “potentially significant lead pollution”.

2. Newman, WA

The North West Australian town of Newman in the Pilbara region has been crowned the second leading cause of air pollution.

Of the 17 mines and power plants surrounding the desert city, data from the National Pollution Inventory shows that the Christmas Creek iron ore mine is the largest air pollutant.

The ACF analysis found that the mine contributed more than 22 percent of the five hazardous air pollutants.

3. Muswellbrook, NSW

Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley is the most polluted city in NSW and the third most polluted city in the country.

Known as a coal mining town, it is home to AGL’s Bayswater Power Station, one of the aging coal-fired power stations that registered increased pollution and reduced power in recent years.

According to ACF, the plant was responsible for more than 54 percent of the pollutants added to the community’s air.

“As these facilities age, they will become more polluted,” said Mr. Rose.

“It’s another reason why coal-fired power plants in Australia need to be phased out, and the technology is available.”

4. Tom Prize, WA

Camera IconTrain transports iron ore from Hamersley Iron’s Tom Price Mine, which contributes to the region’s polluted air. Credit: News Corp Australia

Another remote community in the Western Australian Pilbara region has made the list of the most polluted zip codes, with the town of Tom Price in fourth place.

Despite its minuscule population of 3000 people, the city is under siege by 16 mines and power plants.

Of these, the Solomon Hub, owned by Fortescue Metals, is the largest contributor to air pollutants, with emissions accounting for nearly 28 percent of the total.

5. Traralgon, Vic

Camera IconLoy Yang A Power plant will close four years earlier than expected in 2028, which will help reduce air pollution in the region. Jason Edwards Credit: News Corp Australia

The fast-growing town of Traralgon in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is home to eight industrial polluters – one of which has the second-highest emissions of polluting sulfur dioxide in Australia.

The AGL’s Loy Yang coal-fired power plant contributes more than 68 percent of the region’s total air pollutants.

6. Gladstone, Qld

Camera icon The Gladstone Power Station is one of the operations that adds dangerous pollutants to the city’s air. Credit: News Corp Australia

Home to one of the oldest colliery plants in Queensland, the coastal town of Gladstone is home to 14 power stations, mines, and factories.

Of the 14, the Gladstone Power Plant is the largest contributor to local air pollution, with reports emitting more than 48 percent of the region’s total pollutants.

Community and Gladstone campaigner Jaclyn McCosker said the government must put polluted communities at the forefront of the energy transition with an inclusive strategy.

“Let’s deploy climate solutions fast enough to tackle the climate crisis, but do it constructively and positively for the people who live in these carbon-intensive regions,” she said.

“If anyone can lead an energy transition, it’s probably Gladstone.”

7. Stanwell, Qld

Camera Icon Australia’s Magnesium Corporation smelter under construction at Stanwell shows the prominence of operations of concern in the area. Credit: News Corp Australia

The town of Stanwell in northern Queensland is one of the country’s most polluted towns, with tens of millions of pounds of reported air pollutants.

Although the area has nine power plants and mines, the biggest air polluter is the Stanwell Power Station.

In a city of fewer than 400 inhabitants, the station produces 74 percent of the region’s air pollution.

8. Collie, WA

Camera IconEwington Mine near Collie, WA, is one of two mines in the area contributing to the region’s poor air quality. Credit: News Corp Australia

In southwestern Western Australia, Collie is known as a literal powerhouse. With fewer than 8,000 people, the city is home to three power plants and two coal mines.

Out of eight operations of concern, the ACF analysis identified the Muja power station as the largest polluter, contributing more than 34 percent of the region’s total air pollutants.

9. Tarong, Qld

Camera Icon Tarong Power Station is the region’s main emitter of hazardous air pollutants. Katherine Morris Credit: News Regional Media

The fourth city in Queensland on the most polluted list is the rural town of Tarong. The city is best known for the Tarong Power Station and a nearby mine, which emits air pollutants.

The power station is the largest polluter, contributing nearly 80 percent of the area’s air pollutants.

10. Kalgoorlie, WA

Camera icon An open pit at Northern Star Resources’ Kalgoorlie Operations in Kalgoorlie, Australia’s 10th most polluted city. Carla Gottgens Credit: Included

Rounding out the top 10 most polluted cities in Australia is the Western Australian city of Kalgoorlie. It has a reputation for mining and hosts the annual Diggers and Dealers mining conference.

There are 24 large-scale emissions operations in the region, with gold, silver, mercury, and lead mines contributing to air pollutants.

Kanowna Belle Operations and Nickel West Kalgoorlie Shelter are the worst polluters, which carry about 31 percent of the region’s air pollutants.

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.