Environment Aotearoa 2019 provides an overview of the state of our environment. Using five broad themes the report presents nine priority environmental issues. Each issue includes information about why it matters, what has changed, and the consequences.

Environment Aotearoa 2019 Overview

Environment Aotearoa 2019 provides an overview of the state of our environment. Using five broad themes the report presents nine priority environmental issues. Each issue includes information about why it matters, what has changed, and the consequences.

  • Theme 1: Our ecosystems and biodiversity
    • Issue 1: Our native plants, animals, and ecosystems are under threat
  • Theme 2: How we use our land
    • Issue 2: Changes to the vegetation on our land are degrading the soil and water
    • Issue 3: Urban growth is reducing versatile land and native biodiversity
  • Theme 3: Pollution from our activities
    • Issue 4: Our waterways are polluted in farming areas
    • Issue 5: Our environment is polluted in urban areas
  • Theme 4: How we use our freshwater and marine resources
    • Issue 6: Taking water changes flows which affects our freshwater ecosystems
    • Issue 7: The way we fish is affecting the health of our ocean environment
  • Theme 5: Our changing climate
    • Issue 8: New Zealand has high greenhouse gas emissions per person
    • Issue 9: Climate change is already affecting Aotearoa New Zealand

Prioritising the issues

There are many environmental issues in our country. We used the four criteria below to help describe the significance and urgency of different issues, and identify those that matter most: 

  • Spatial extent and scale: how much of New Zealand is affected by the issue?
  • Magnitude of change: is the issue increasing in scale and/or distribution, or accelerating?
  • Irreversibility and lasting effects of change: how hard is it to fix?
  • Scale of effect on culture, recreation, health, and economy: how much does it affect the things we value? 

An independent panel of scientists verified the selection process. Māori researchers and practitioners also considered the relevance of the issues to cultural values. 

Senior science team

A team of internationally recognised scientists formed a senior science team who provided guidance throughout the report scoping, writing, review and publication process.

  • Dr. Alison Collins, Departmental Science Advisor – Ministry for the Environment – Manatū Mō Te Taiao
  • Dr. Alison MacDiarmid, Regional Manager Wellington – NIWA – Taihoro Nukurangi.
  • Dr. Anne-Gaelle Ausseil, Researcher – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
  • Dr. Clive Howard-Williams, Emeritus Scientist – NIWA Taihoro Nukurangi
  • Dr. Phil Lyver, Kairangahau Māori – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

Indicators

The data used in Environment Aotearoa 2019 is taken from the latest environmental reports produced by MfE and Stats NZ. Environment Aotearoa 2019 draws on 60 environmental indicators. One indicator is used for the first time here – nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, as a measure of the pressure placed on waterways. seventeen indicators ​have been updated since they were last used in a report.

The list of environmental indicators is on Stats NZ's website. The data that makes up each indicator can be accessed from the indicator pages or via the MfE data service

Te ao Māori focus

Te ao Māori, a Māori world view, has an important place in environmental reporting in New Zealand. It respects the unique connection that tangata whenua have with the land and helps us see ourselves as a part of, not apart from, the environment. Te ao Māori has been included in the report whenever possible. 

Understanding our environment

To ensure the health of our environment, we need to be able to make good decisions, based on robust data, scientific evidence and adequate knowledge.

Environment Aotearoa 2019 also highlights data gaps and areas where our knowledge is incomplete. This includes trends over time and specifics about what and how certain activities are making things worse. Better information is also needed about what's happening at a regional level and how we can act to make the best use of our resources.

Publication reference number: ME 1416

Corrections

Subsequent to publication we discovered a minor error in the calculation of dominant land cover used with River water quality data in this report. This has had a minor impact on the figures used in this report. For the most recent data, please see Our freshwater 2020 and the related indicator pages.

Correction: 10 May 2019

We have corrected a sentence on page 39 of Environment Aotearoa 2019.  The following sentence originally said $5 million. It now says $5 billion: Our remaining freshwater wetlands were estimated to provide benefits with an estimated value of more than $5 billion per year in 2012 (Patterson & Cole, 2013).

Correction: 10 June 2019

We have corrected a sentence on page 33 of Environment Aotearoa 2019. The following sentence originally said 55 percent. It now says 60 percent: As of 2012, approximately 5 percent of our land area was classified as highly prone to erosion, and 60 per cent of highly erodible land was in the North Island.

We have corrected a sentence on page 84 of Environment Aotearoa 2019. The following sentence originally said total allowable catch. It now says total allowable commercial catch: The QMS gives quota holders a right to harvest a fish stock up to a maximum level - the total allowable commercial catch.

Correction: 6 January 2020

We have corrected three sentences on page 96 of Environment Aotearoa 2019. The text originally said: Although the number of vehicles entering the fleet in 2017 was a record high, the number exiting it was low. This makes our light vehicle fleet relatively old by OECD standards – 14 years on average for a petrol-powered vehicle. Older vehicles tend to be more wasteful of petrol for each kilometre travelled and emit more carbon dioxide (Ministry of Transport, 2017).

Our ageing vehicle fleet also contributes to black carbon emissions (as older vehicles emit more) (Davy & Trompetter, 2018).

This text now says: Although the number of vehicles entering the fleet in 2017 was a record high, the number exiting it was low. This is a continuation of a pattern that makes our light vehicle fleet relatively old by OECD standards – 14 years on average for a petrol-powered vehicle. The high rate of ownership and relatively high CO2 emissions per kilometre of newly registered vehicles contributes to New Zealand being among the highest OECD countries for emissions of CO2 per capita from on-road transport (OECD, 2017; Ministry of Transport, 2017).

Our ageing vehicle fleet also contributes to black carbon emissions (as older vehicles emit more per unit of fuel burned) (Davy & Trompetter, 2018).

Correction: 12 August 2020

We have corrected two sentences on page 75. 
The sentences ‘We are heavy users of fresh water. In 2014, New Zealand had the second highest volume of water take per person of OECD countries – 2,162 cubic metres compared with the OECD average of 815 cubic metres.’ has been changed to ‘We are also heavy users of fresh water. In 2014, New Zealand’s consented water allocation per person was 2,162 cubic metres.’

Publication reference number: ME 1416

Supporting documents