Latest state of the environment report gives cause for disquiet

A comprehensive assessment of New Zealand’s environment shows improvements in some areas but continued reduction in many aspects of environmental quality, with consequences for human health and wellbeing.

The assessment, produced every three years by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, draws on nearly 50 environmental indicators, including 11 updated specifically for the report.

Environment Aotearoa 2022 found pressures of land use change and intensification, pollution, invasive species, and climate change were having detrimental impacts on the environment.

New Zealand’s rare ecosystems and indigenous species are under threat with 94 per cent of reptiles threatened with extinction or at risk of becoming extinct, and nearly three-quarters of terrestrial birds threatened or at risk.

The area of highly productive land that was unavailable for agriculture increased 54 per cent between 2002 and 2019.

The climate is warming, glaciers are melting and sea-levels are rising. Air quality in New Zealand is improving slowly at a majority of measurement sites, but in many places pollution levels are above the new WHO 2021 guidelines.

The report notes evidence on increasing frequency of short-term droughts in some places, with flow-on effects to other parts of the environment and human endeavours.

“Environment Aotearoa 2022 relates environment change to human wellbeing,” said Vicky Robertson, Secretary for the Environment.  

“The report brings together a wide range of information to give us a broad picture of the health of the environment. Wellbeing is linked to a healthy, functioning environment.”

Environmental indicator data underpinning the report comes from local and central government, crown and independent research institutes, industry associations, and in a small number of cases, international sources.

Stats NZ Government Statistician Mark Sowden said Environment Aotearoa 2022 is a synthesis report, drawing together previous reports, the latest environmental indicators, and peer-reviewed scientific literature.

“The report has been rigorously examined by scientific and statistical experts, ensuring that the information is accurate and trustworthy. The independence of the environmental reporting programme is critical for ensuring the trustworthiness and credibility of environmental reporting.”

Ms Robertson said the report’s primary purpose is to provide New Zealanders with the evidence-based information they need to consider in any decisions about their environmental impacts and New Zealand’s future direction.

The report follows closely in the wake of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report and comes ahead of the planned release of New Zealand’s Emissions Reduction Plan and draft National Adaptation Plan.

Source:  Ministry for the Environment


Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog