In 2019 the Ministry released the synthesis report Environment Aotearoa 2019 which highlighted the need for improvements in the current environmental reporting system.
In the same year the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton released the report Focusing Aotearoa New Zealand’s environmental reporting system which reviewed the performance of the environmental reporting system.
As a result, there have been several improvements to environmental reporting.
They include the following.
- The establishment of a Science Advisory Panel to provide independent advice, grounded in science and mātauranga Māori, and to support the role of the Secretary for the Environment.
- Incorporating information on drivers (what is causing the pressures) and forward-looking outlooks (where we are headed) in the most recent environmental reports starting with Our atmosphere and climate 2020.
- Releasing environmental indicator data separate to the six-monthly report releases. This has a number of advantages, including:
- reducing unnecessary lag-times for consumers waiting for data and provides them with the most up-to-date information when they access our indicators from web searches or subscribe to future updates.
- moving the reporting programme toward establishing a robust, broad, and readily available evidence base to inform ‘commentary’ reports as recommended by the PCE (with the focus of these reports to be identified by the newly established Science Advisory Panel).
- Continuing work on systemic issues of consistency in data collection in the form of the National Environmental Monitoring Standards that focus on developing standards for measured data.
Work also progresses to amend the Environmental Reporting Act 2015, as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. This will be an important step towards improving the wider Environmental Monitoring and Reporting System.
In 2022, we sought feedback on proposals to strengthen the Act.
The Environmental Reporting Act 2015 is expected to increase the focus on what environmental data is available. The Ministry for the Environment is working with Statistics New Zealand and regional councils to improve the availability of robust, representative data.
We set up a data improvement work stream to ensure consistent and representative data is available for future environmental reporting.
Our key areas of focus for future data are improving under-developed, insufficient, and poor-quality data.
This work may include developing new indicators, models, data sources, methodologies, analyses and presentation techniques. The Ministry will consult, assess, and advise Ministers and councils on the costs and benefits of improving this information.
A lot of data used in national environmental reporting are provided by regional councils. We are working closely with them to support improvements to environmental reporting systems.
The Environmental Monitoring and Reporting (EMaR) Project is one way that we are working with regional councils. It involves exploring the standardisation of methods and sharing of data collection, management and exchange protocols to allow national scale interpretation of regional data. The end goal of the EMaR Project is to have environmental data collected by regional councils more widely available through Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA).
LAWA is a collaboration between the Ministry, regional councils, the Cawthron Institute and Open Lab (Massey University). Currently regional councils supply real-time water quality and quantity data and air quality data to the LAWA website. LAWA also has land cover and recreational water quality data. This allows central and local government, scientific communities and the public access to national and up-to-date datasets from a single source. It is intended that the LAWA website will be extended to host data relevant to other environmental reporting domains.
See the LAWA website.
National Environmental Monitoring Standards (NEMS) are being developed to establish best practice for the ongoing measurement of our environment. The work has been funded by regional councils, the Ministry, major power generators and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The development of the standards is managed by a NEMS steering committee of senior staff from regional councils and unitary authorities, major power generators, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and the Ministry.
More on these standards can be found on the A series of environmental monitoring standardsNEMS website.