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Environment New Zealand 2007 – National-level State of the Environment Report

POL (07) 386
19 October 2007

Office of the Acting Minister for the Environment

Chair
Cabinet Policy Committee

Proposal

1.  The Cabinet Policy Committee is invited to note the contents of Environment New Zealand 2007, the draft national-level state of the environment report. The Ministry for the Environment expects to publicly release the report in late December 2007.

Executive summary

2.  Environment New Zealand 2007 is New Zealand’s second national-level state of the environment report (the first was in 1997). The 2007 report uses a core set of environmental indicators to present factual, quantitative information on key aspects of the New Zealand environment.

3.  While the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) undertakes regular national-level reporting on selected aspects of the New Zealand environment (e.g. water, air and waste), Environment New Zealand 2007 provides a snapshot of the overall state of our environment. 

4.  Environment New Zealand 2007 will play an important role in establishing regular national-level reporting on the state of New Zealand’s environment. The report is the first product to be delivered under the new national-level environmental reporting framework agreed by Cabinet in late 2006.

5.  The report shows that some key pressures on the New Zealand environment are growing (for example, consumption of goods and services is growing, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation are increasing, the use of transport and energy is rising, and land use is intensifying) as our population increases, our economy grows and evolves, and our lifestyles change. Other pressures appear to be reducing (for example, estimates of waste disposed of to landfill have stabilised) or are being avoided (for example, recycling rates, pest management activity and the areas of protected land and ocean have increased). The report illustrates how, at the national level, these changing pressures are having an impact on the state of our environment. (See Appendix One for details of the report’s key findings, and relevant Government initiatives and policies in place or under development).

6.  I do not expect the findings of this report to be a surprise to political, industry, iwi or community leaders. By and large, the data used in the report is already publicly available. The aspects of the environment which are under pressure are already well known and, in many cases, under active management. The report may, however, confirm previously qualitative information using quantitative data.

7.  The findings of Environment New Zealand 2007 provide a solid platform from which to engage key sectoral groups and the public on the cross-government sustainability work programme. The release of the report – and the heightened public attention on the environment that is likely to follow it – can be used to reinforce the need for and seek buy-in for early action on environmental sustainability. 

8.  As appropriate, agencies involved in the Environment New Zealand 2007 steering group will assess the findings of the report, and report back to their respective portfolio Ministers (informing the Ministry for the Environment as coordinating agency), with advice on the need for any new or strengthened policy initiatives.

9.  Together with the new national-level environmental reporting framework, the release of Environment New Zealand 2007 responds to the recommendation in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand (April 2007) that New Zealand should expand the availability of quantitative information on environmental quality.

Background

10.  In October 2006, Cabinet directed MfE to prepare a departmental report on the state of New Zealand’s environment for publication [CAB Min (06) 40/2A].

11.  In February 2007, Cabinet noted that Environment New Zealand 2007 would be prepared for consideration by Cabinet by 31 October and eventual public release [CAB Min (07) 4/1A].

12.  Although regional-level state of the environment reporting is undertaken on a regular basis by regional councils, national-level environmental reporting in New Zealand has generally focused on selected aspects of our environment (for example, water quality, waste flows or air quality), for which data is available across the whole of the country. Recent examples of such reporting include the Ministry for the Environment's Targets in the New Zealand Waste Strategy: 2006 Review of Progress (2007), New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2005 (2007), and the Snapshot of water allocation in New Zealand (2006).

13.  In response to calls for more national-level state of the environment reporting, a new national-level environmental reporting framework was established in late 2006 [CAB Min (06) 11/7 and CAB Min (06) 40/2A]. This established regular and ongoing reporting on the overall state of New Zealand’s environment. 

14.  Together with the new national-level environmental reporting framework, the release of Environment New Zealand 2007 also responds to the recommendation in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand (April 2007) that New Zealand “expand the availability of quantitative indicators and time series data related to environmental quality, assuring policy relevance and public access.”

Purpose of Environment New Zealand 2007

15.  In line with common international practice, Environment New Zealand 2007 presents factual, quantitative information on key aspects of the New Zealand environment and tracks how these aspects have changed over time. As the first report in 1997 provided largely qualitative rather than quantitative information, the two reports are not easily comparable.

16.  The 2007 report will:

  • increase New Zealanders’ understanding about the state of, and pressures on, our environment
  • provide useable and constructive information to foster informed decision-making on matters that affect the environment and encourage appropriate management approaches
  • highlight the aspects of our environment that have come under particular pressure and those that require priority attention
  • help motivate all New Zealanders to take action to protect and conserve the environment
  • provide a platform from which to engage key sectoral groups and the public on the cross-government sustainability work programme.

Environmental indicators and classification systems

17.  Environment New Zealand 2007 will play an important role in establishing regular national-level reporting on the state of New Zealand’s environment. In large part, its value is in setting a benchmark against which environmental outcomes can be monitored in future. It does so by using 19 national environmental indicators to provide information on the overall health of the New Zealand environment:

  • Household Consumption
  • Solid waste disposed of to landfill
  • Stratospheric ozone levels
  • Soil health
  • Freshwater demand
  • Water quality at coastal swimming spots
  • Distribution of selected native species
  • Vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by road
  • Air quality in managed airsheds
  • Land cover
  • Soil intactness on erosion-prone land
  • Fish stocks under the Quota Management System
  • Marine areas with legal protection
  • Energy supply and consumption
  • Emissions and removals of greenhouse gases
  • Land use
  • Water quality in rivers, lakes and groundwaters
  • Seabed trawling in deep waters
  • Land area with native vegetation, including legal protection

18.  MfE developed the national environmental indicators using two well-tested analytical models: the Driving forces–Pressures–State–Impact–Response model, which was derived from the OECD’s Pressure–State–Response model, and the typology of indicators developed by the European Environment Agency.

19.  By regularly reporting against the environmental indicators, MfE will be able to track and compare environmental performance in future national-level State of the Environment reports. This is similar to how the Ministry for Social Development’s annual ‘Social Report’ tracks trends in the social well-being of New Zealanders and compares year-on-year changes using a set of social indicators. 

20.  The report also makes use of ecological classification systems. Classification systems identify and treat as one unit those parts of the environment which are ecologically similar, no matter where they occur geographically. In this way, they provide a framework for taking quantitative information sourced from monitored parts of the environment and extrapolating them to other, similar parts of the environment that are not monitored. In this way, classification systems can be used to build up a national-level picture of the state of our environment.

21.  In order to report against the environmental indicators and apply the classification systems, Environment New Zealand 2007 makes use of data collected from a range of sources, including central and local government agencies, non-government organisations and crown research institutes. The report is based on information and data available before July 2007.

Structure of Environment New Zealand 2007

22.  Environment New Zealand 2007 contains three sections:

  • Section one provides an overview of the New Zealand environment, population, and demography.  It also describes the environmental indicators and classification tools used in the report.
  • Section two outlines the key pressures on New Zealand’s environment brought about by our consumption of resources (household consumption, transport, energy, and waste).
  • Section three focuses on the state of our environment. It examines the state of air quality, the atmosphere, freshwater quality and quantity, the land, the ocean and biodiversity in New Zealand.

23.  The report is a neutral, factual presentation of information. It does not contain any recommendations for action.  Similar reports (such as the Kyoto Protocol net position, the annual greenhouse gas inventory, and the Social Report) also take this approach.  Nor does the report attempt to draw conclusions based on the information it presents, which is similar in approach to the Kyoto Protocol net position and the annual greenhouse gas inventory.

24.  As is normal practice internationally, Environment New Zealand 2007 does not provide exhaustive information about the government’s policy responses to the issues discussed in the report. Some key examples of central government, regional government and local policies, programmes and initiatives are included in the report.  Consideration of policy responses will be part of the follow-up to the release of the report (see also paragraphs 41-42)

Accompanying products

25.  The Environment New Zealand 2007 report will be accompanied by a summary document of approximately 45 pages and a (web-based) technical guide, which provides a more in-depth explanation of the indicators and ecological classification systems.

26.  The first two documents will be available in both printed and internet formats, with the Technical Guide available on the MfE website only.

Who has been involved?

27.  An Environment New Zealand 2007 project steering group was established to guide the strategic direction of the report, and act as a forum for peer review of its content. The steering group comprised the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry; Department of Conservation; Ministry of Transport; Ministry of Economic Development; Statistics New Zealand; Ministry of Social Development; Ministry of Health; The Treasury; Ministry of Fisheries; Land Information New Zealand; and the QE II National Trust. Regional government was also represented on the steering group through the Resource Managers Group.

28.  The report has been extensively peer-reviewed by central government and local government agencies, and technical experts. Regional councils have had the opportunity to peer-review all chapters.

Key findings of Environment New Zealand 2007

29.  Appendix one of this paper summarises the key findings of Environment New Zealand 2007, with a particular focus on findings which relate to the national environmental indicators. Appendix One also identifies whether the key findings are new information or well-known, and whether they align with independent commentary on the New Zealand environment (for example, the OECD’s recent Environmental Performance Review). Relevant government initiatives and policies in place or under development are also listed in Appendix One.

30.  While we can assess whether some aspects of the environment appear to have improved or deteriorated over time on the basis of the data available in Environment New Zealand 2007, for many aspects of the environment this is not possible. There are two reasons for this. The 1997 report did not make use of indicators, so we do not always have available a benchmark against which to chart improvement or deterioration. The data that we do have available may not allow trend analysis – that is to say, we may not be able to say with confidence that the changes observed represent a meaningful trend. As an example, climatic conditions are known to affect air quality. As a result, it is not always clear whether changes in concentrations of air pollutants are due to increasing human pressures on air quality, or simply reflect changing climatic conditions.

31.  At the highest level, Environment New Zealand 2007 shows that key pressures on the New Zealand environment are growing as our population increases, our economy grows and evolves, and our lifestyles change. For example, the report illustrates that, on a national basis, consumption of goods and services is growing, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation are increasing, and the use of transport and energy is rising. The report shows that some pressures appear to be reducing at the national level (for example, estimates of waste disposed of to landfill have stabilised, and recycling rates, pest management activity and the areas of protected land and ocean have increased).

32.  The report shows that, nationally, some aspects of our environment appear to be getting worse over time (for example, the nutrient quality of freshwaters and freshwater availability in some areas, soil quality under some land uses, the distribution of some native species), or have been over-exploited (for example, some of our fish stocks). Other aspects appear to be improving (for example, air quality in managed airsheds, stratospheric ozone levels, organic pollution and some other types of pollution in our freshwaters, hill country erosion in some areas, and recovery of some endangered species).

33.  One common thread that runs through the report is that New Zealand’s economic profile has a significant bearing on the pressures on our environment, both today and in the past. As a country reliant on primary production from the land and the sea for our economic and social well-being, we face particular environmental pressures and legacies. At the same time, we have avoided those pressures and legacies common in heavily industrialised countries. 

34.  The report highlights that intensification of land use – whether it is in rural or urban areas – is having an impact on our environment. As nearly 40 percent of our land area is used for pasture, intensification of pastoral agriculture has a particularly significant effect on our environment. Intensification of agriculture affects water availability, water quality, the atmosphere (through increased greenhouse gas emissions) and soil quality (including through compaction and erosion). While a much smaller proportion of our land area is in urban/artificial surfaces, increasing urban expansion, rural subdivision and infill housing leads to higher levels of hard surfacing, increased stormwater runoff and land compaction. It also increases demands on infrastructure such as water, energy, telecommunications, sewerage, roading and other transport infrastructure. 

Comment

35.  I do not expect that the findings of Environment New Zealand 2007 will be a surprise to political, industry, iwi or community leaders. The aspects of the New Zealand environment identified by the report as coming under pressure are already well known and, in many cases, already under active management. The report may, however, confirm previously anecdotal or qualitative knowledge using quantitative information. In most cases, the data presented in the report is already available in the public domain (for example, it has been made public through earlier government reports, or in the OECD Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand).

36.  The report does, however, bring together in one place key information on the New Zealand environment so that it is more readily accessible. For that reason, the release of the document is likely to raise public interest in environmental issues and focus media attention and public commentary on the state of the New Zealand environment and the pressures it is under. There is also likely to be international interest in the report. At this early stage of the government work programme on sustainability, however, I consider there will be clear benefits in capitalising on the release of the report to encourage serious discussion across society on the environment and environmental sustainability. I outline briefly in paragraphs 38-39 below how this could be taken forward.

Public release of Environment New Zealand 2007

37.  As Environment New Zealand 2007 is a departmental report, the Chief Executive of MfE expects to publicly release the report in late December 2007, subject to printing timelines. The Kyoto Protocol net position, the annual greenhouse gas inventory, and the Social Report are similarly released as departmental reports. As with those other reports, the state of the environment report is a factual rather than a policy document and the integrity of the data it presents is critical to its public value.

38.  I consider that the findings of Environment New Zealand 2007 provide an important platform from which to engage key sectoral groups and the public on the Government’s sustainability work programme. While planning is still at an early stage, I consider that there are benefits in using the release of the report – and the heightened public attention on the environment that is likely to follow - to reinforce the need for early action on sustainability. We can also use it to highlight government action already under way or under development. Government alone cannot respond to the findings in the report – action will be required from industry, communities and central and regional government. The release of the report may also provide a useful tool to engage the public on the evolving climate change work programme. 

39.  MfE intends to tie in the findings of the report to planned outreach under the sustainability work programme. This outreach could take the form of a series of ‘conversations with New Zealand’ in the form of panel discussions with key commentators, discussions with relevant sector and industry groups (for example, through the sector reference groups established as part of the Government’s six sustainability work programmes) and other similar engagement. This engagement will be aligned with the whole-of-government communications work programme on sustainability [POL Min (07) 9/20]. 

40.  I intend to work closely with MfE to finalise details of this engagement prior to the release of the report. MfE will also be working with other departments on the release of the report, including identifying risks and opportunities, both domestically and internationally. 

Follow-up to the release of Environment New Zealand 2007

41.  Following the release of Environment New Zealand 2007, officials will assess the findings of the report in relation to existing central and regional government work programmes and industry initiatives which aim to address or mitigate the environmental pressures discussed in the report. 

42.  I expect MfE to work through the existing Environment New Zealand 2007 steering group and other relevant policy forums to assess whether the report has identified any policy gaps or areas of policy which require strengthening. I expect officials to report back to their respective Minister and inform the Ministry for the Environment (as coordinating agency) about the need for new or strengthened policy initiatives. In this way, Ministers can consider and take forward this advice, as appropriate, in the usual way and subject to the usual budgetary processes. 

Consultation

43.  The content of this paper was discussed with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry; Department of Conservation; Ministry of Transport; Ministry of Economic Development; Ministry of Social Development; Ministry of Health; The Treasury; Ministry of Fisheries; Te Puni Kokiri; the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Statistics New Zealand, Land Information New Zealand and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet were also informed of the contents of this paper.

Financial implications

44.  There are no financial implications arising from this paper.

Human rights

45.  There are no human rights issues arising that are in any way inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993.

Legislative implications

46.  There are no legislative impacts arising from this paper.

Regulatory impact statement

47.  No regulatory impact statement is necessary.

Gender implications and disability perspectives

48.  There are no gender implications or disability perspectives associated with this paper.

Publicity

49.  MfE intends to release Environment New Zealand 2007 at a media briefing in late December 2007, subject to printing timelines.   MfE will work with my office and other departments to identify and manage risks and opportunities, and prepare communications materials, including publicity, for the release of the report.  Around 1,500 copies of the report will be sent to key stakeholders (including in government, industry, iwi and the community) after the public release. A further 1,500 copies will be available for distribution to interested parties over the course of the next year. 

50.  Portfolio Ministers who have a direct interest in the report will receive an advance copy of the report prior to its release, as will relevant government department chief executives. MfE will work with other departments to brief relevant Ministerial press secretaries prior to the launch. 

51.  As noted above, the findings of Environment New Zealand 2007 provide a solid platform from which to engage key sectoral groups and the public on the new sustainability work programme and reinforce the need for early action on sustainability. Departments will continue to monitor and manage risks and opportunities throughout this process. 

Recommendations

52.  The Acting Minister for the Environment recommends that the Committee:

  1. note that in October 2006, Cabinet directed the Ministry for the Environment to prepare a departmental report on the state of New Zealand’s environment for publication [CAB Min (06) 40/2A];
  2. note that in February 2007, the Cabinet Business Committee (CBC) noted that the Ministry for the Environment was preparing Environment New Zealand 2007 for consideration by Cabinet by 31 October 2007 and eventual public release [CAB Min (07) 4/1A];
  3. note that the report uses 19 national environmental indicators to provide a quantitative overview of key aspects of New Zealand’s environment, track how these have changed over time and set a benchmark against which future changes can be monitored;
  4. note that a draft copy of Environment New Zealand 2007 is attached for the Committee’s information;
  5. invite the Minister for the Environment to approve the release of the Environment New Zealand 2007, subject to final editing, proofing and formatting changes;
  6. note that the Ministry for the Environment expects to publicly release Environment New Zealand 2007 in late December 2007, subject to printing schedules and the approval of the office of the Minister for the Environment;
  7. note that the Ministry for the Environment will work with the office of the Minister for the Environment and other departments to prepare a communications plan and materials in advance of the release of Environment New Zealand 2007;
  8. note that relevant portfolio Ministers will receive an advance copy of Environment New Zealand 2007 prior to its release, and MfE will work with other departments to brief relevant Ministerial press secretaries;
  9. note that the report provides a platform from which to engage key sectoral groups and the public on the Government’s sustainability work programme, and reinforce the need to take early action;
  10. note that agencies involved in the Environment New Zealand 2007 steering group will review the findings of the report, and report back to respective portfolio Ministers (informing the Ministry for the Environment as coordinating agency), with advice on any need for new or strengthened policy initiatives.

Signature Date

Hon David Parker
Acting Minister for the Environment

Appendix one - Indicators and variables used in Environment New Zealand 2007, key findings of the report, and relevant government initiatives

Indicators and variables used in Environment New Zealand 2007, key findings of the report, and relevant government initiatives.

Report chapter: Household consumption

Indicator

Household consumption

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

Household expenditure on the following expenditure categories:

  • Food and beverages
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Housing (excluding mortgages and house purchases)
  • Household goods and services
  • Transport
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Other goods and services

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

New Zealand households spent more in 2006 than they spent in 1997.

Between 1997 and 2006, real total household consumption expenditure in New Zealand increased by $21,532 million (39%). Over the same period, real per capita household consumption expenditure increased by nearly $4,000 (26%), and real per household consumption expenditure by just over $8,700 (20%).

This increase compares to an increase in New Zealand’s population of around 11% and in real GDP of just over 30% for the same period.

Since 1997, housing, transport, and food and beverages have consistently appeared as the top 3 consumption categories, in terms of both real and nominal expenditure, and expenditure per capita and per household.

Between 1997 and 2006, most of our spending each year was on housing. In nominal terms, housing was the category on which most money was spent in 2006 (about 18% of total household consumption expenditure, which is a decrease from about 21% in 1997).

However, in real terms, in 2006 New Zealanders spent more on food and beverages than on any of the other goods and services categories ($3,262 per person, per year, in real terms).

Comment

The Household Consumption chapter reports on household consumption using data that is readily available from Statistics New Zealand.

The findings of the Household Consumption chapter confirm anecdotal evidence that rising consumption is likely to be related partly to population growth, partly to the growing number of households in New Zealand, and partly due to a growing economy.

However, increased household consumption expenditure can also be attributed to increasing consumption over time; that is, more people buying more things, not just more people buying the same things.

Increased consumption can mean greater use of natural resources and increased generation of waste, both of which have implications for the environment.  However, some short-term consumption (for example, investment in home insulation) can lead to long-term reductions on business-as-usual consumption (e.g. reduced energy consumption).

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Household Consumption chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • The 2007 announcement of a sustainable households work programme as part of the Government’s six sustainability initiatives.
  • The 2007 announcement of an eco-verification programme to ensure products which carry eco-labels meet minimum standards (this work is part of the Government’s six sustainability initiatives).
  • The Environmental Choice New Zealand  eco-labelling scheme
  • Minimum Energy Performance Standards for appliances
  • Energy Star Rating Labels for appliances
  • Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme, to be launched in late 2007
  • The 2007 NZ Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. 
  • The 2007 commitment to implement an Emissions Trading Scheme to introduce a price for greenhouse gas emissions which will flow though in to the prices of household goods and services
  • The EnergyWise Home Grants programme to provide grants and advice for warmer, healthier and more energy efficient homes. More than 30,000 low-income households have been retro-fitted with better insulation, with 12,000 homes retrofit per annum.
  • The Energywise Home Loans scheme provides interest-free loans for energy efficiency installations for middle/high income households (100,000 energy efficiency upgrades and 30,000 clean heating upgrades are expected over 15 years)
  • Solar water heating programme, launched in 2006
  • Smarter homes website launched in 2007
  • Fuel$aver website, launched in 2006, to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles
  • Reduce your Rubbish campaign, a joint regional and central government initiative to minimise waste.
  • Business Partnerships for Sustainability Programme to identify and leverage off market opportunities from sustainability, and build the capability of New Zealand firms and sectors (especially tourism & food and beverage) to respond

The findings of the Household Consumption chapter provide opportunities to highlight government’s commitment in Budget 2007:

$66.95 million over four years for the Energywise Homes package, to fund a range of measures to improve the energy efficiency of New Zealand households; $6 million for a household sustainability awareness campaign, and $7.4 million to increase the sustainability of government procurement and enhanced eco-verification, as part of the Government’s six sustainability initiatives.

Report chapter: Transport

Indicator

Vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by road

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Vehicle kilometres travelled by vehicle type (cars, light commercial vehicles, heavy commercial vehicles, and motorbikes)
  • Vehicle kilometres travelled by vehicle age
  • Vehicle kilometres travelled by fuel type (petrol or diesel)

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Between 1980 and 2000, total annual vehicle kilometres travelled in New Zealand more than doubled, from 18.52 billion kilometres to 37.33 billion kilometres. New Zealanders travelled over 39.2 billion vehicle kilometres in 2006. 

In 2006, 61% of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet was more than 10 years old. This represents a 4 percentage point increase in age from 2001.  

The average age of light vehicles in the New Zealand vehicle fleet in 2006 was 12.4 years, up from 11.9 years in 2000.

New Zealand’s vehicle fleet is dominated by ageing, petrol-fuelled vehicles, although the share of diesel vehicles on the road has increased 3% since 2001 from 15% to 18%. 

Between 2001 and 2006 the number of diesel vehicles in the New Zealand fleet increased 39%.

Comment

The findings of the Transport chapter illustrate that New Zealanders are increasingly reliant on vehicles for mobility, that they are driving older vehicles, with larger engines, and driving them further. These trends have implications for air quality, transport energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The findings of this chapter are similar to those published in the Ministry of Economic Development’s Energy Outlook to 2030 and the Ministry for the Environment’s Boots n all, both published in 2006.

The findings of the Transport chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Further develop economic and regulatory measures to reduce air pollution from transport-related emissions.
  • Augment measures to encourage improved emissions performance of motor vehicles and to internalise the environmental costs of road transport (e.g. fuel taxes, fuel quality standards, inspection of in-use motor vehicles, road-user charges).

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Transport chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • The 2002 New Zealand Transport Strategy, and the forthcoming Implementing New Zealand’s Transport Strategy
  • The 2002 National Walking and Cycling Strategy
  • The 2004 National Rail Strategy to 2015
  • The 2007 NZ Energy Strategy and the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy
  • The 2007 proposal to include transport under the Emissions Trading Scheme (recent NZES and NZEECS announcements include proposals to reduce per capita transport emissions by half by 2040; and for NZ to be in front in terms of deploying electric cars).
  • Biofuels Sales Obligation - to take effect from 2008 and deliver a biofuels component of 3.4% of total fuel sales by 2012.
  • Vehicle Fuel Economy Labelling Scheme approved in 2007, to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles
  • Fuel$aver website, launched in 2006, to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles
  • The Walking School Bus programme
  • Improvements in fuel quality (including the phasing out of lead and phased reductions in sulphur from 2002, with resulting improvements for air quality).
  • Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule2006 (including a visible smoke check at vehicle inspections from October 2006)
  • Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule 2007 (Under Development), updates emissions standards, requires emissions testing for new and used imported vehicles at entry into the fleet and prohibits removal or tampering with emissions control equipment.
  • The Auckland Road Pricing Evaluation Study (2006) and the  Auckland Transport Strategic Alignment Project
  • New Zealand Urban Design Protocol, launched in 2005, to encourage quality uurban design. Among other things, the Protocol places a high priority on walking, cycling and public transport.
  • The Integrated Approach to Planning project. The aim is to integrate transport decision making with a focus on urban form, design and settlement patterns.
  • Proposed sales-weighted fuel economy standard, to improve the average fuel economy of light vehicles entering the country
  • Proposed Domestic Sea Freight Strategy, to realise the potential for the carriage of domestic freight by sea

The findings of the Transport chapter provide opportunities to highlight the government’s commitment of $650 million for improving and upgrading rail announced in Budget 2007. Earlier investment in public transport includes $301 million in 2006/07 to fund public transport, including a commitment of $66million to the Northern Busway in Auckland.

Report chapter: Energy

Indicator

Energy supply and consumption

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Total consumer energy demand
  • Consumer energy demand compared to Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • Total primary energy supply
  • Electricity generation

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

New Zealand’s total primary energy supply is growing to meet increased consumer demand.

Between 1995-2005, total primary energy supply increased by 10%, from 675 petajoules to 740 petajoules. At present, 72% of this supply comes from fossil-fuel-based oil and natural gas. The remaining 28% is from renewable sources.

Between 1995-2005, total consumer energy demand increased by 21% from 407 petajoules to 494 petajoules. Much of this growth in demand is from transport, which accounted for 43% of total energy consumption in 2005.

New Zealand’s use of renewable sources for electricity generation is high by international standards. In 2005, renewable sources accounted for about 66% of our electricity generation, with hydro-electricity providing 56% of total electricity generation.

From 1990 to 2005, total consumer energy demand increased by 37%. Over the same period, GDP grew by 56%. This increase suggests the economy is reducing its reliance on energy, at least to some degree.

On average, hydro and wind are the most efficient forms of energy for generating electricity in New Zealand, at almost 100% efficient. By convention, geothermal generation is around 15% efficient. In general, the efficiency of thermal fuels (coal and natural gas) ranges from 30-50%.

Comment

The Energy chapter reports on New Zealand’s energy supply and consumption using data from the New Zealand Energy Data File, published by the Ministry for Economic Development in September 2006.

All data is available in the public domain. However, information presented on the efficiency of fuel types for electricity generation is presented in a form that has not been published before.

The findings of the Energy chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its  Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Strengthen and extend measures to decouple environmental pressures from economic growth.

The OECD also notes in its Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand that the share of renewable energy that contributes to New Zealand’s energy supply is high compared to other OECD countries.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the Energy chapter are underway and under development. These include a number of initiatives already listed above under the Transport and Household Consumption sections, as well as:

  • The 2007 New Zealand Energy Strategy to 2050
  • The 2007 New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy
  • The 2007 announcement of an Emissions Trading Scheme which will price carbon emissions, including in the energy sector
  • National environmental standards for electricity transmission (under development)
  • Home Energy Rating Scheme (under development)
  • Solar Water Heating programme
  • Building Code review (to be completed by 30 November 2007)
  • 2004 Amendment of the RMA to ensure renewable energy is taken into account in decision-making under the RMA.
  • Proposed national policy statement on electricity transmission, to recognise the national significance of the electricity transmission network, and set out objectives and policies for managing the national grid under the RMA.
  • Proposed national policy statement on renewable energy

The findings of the Energy chapter provide opportunities to highlight the government’s commitment of $15.5 million to enhance the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s (EECA) Solar Water Heating programme announced in Budget 2006; and the Marine Energy Fund of $8 million over four years announced in 2006 to bring forward the development of marine energy in New Zealand by facilitating early deployment and adaptation of the technology.

In addition, Budget 2007 included a commitment of $10 million for research and development, and commercialisation, of bioenergy and $3.125 million in funding for R&D on biochar (over the next four years) under the 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action.

The government has committed $66.95 million over the next four years to the EnergyWise Homes package. Key elements of this funding are: $23 million for an interest-free loans scheme; $8.8 million to maintain EECA’s EnergyWise Home Grants Scheme at its current level of 12,000 energy efficiency retrofits per year for low-income households; $5.4 million for clean heating grants, providing 800 clean heating retrofits per year for low-income households in areas of poor air quality; $15.25 million for the Home Energy Rating Scheme; $7.1 million for raising public awareness; and $5.6 million for testing and accreditation of energy efficient products.

In addition, a Low-Carbon Technology Fund – a $4 million contestable fund to support R&D for new low-carbon energy technologies, including promising second generation biofuel technologies – is proposed from 2008.

Report chapter: Waste

Indicator

Solid waste disposed of to landfill

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The volume (by weight) and the composition of solid waste disposed of to landfill.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

The amount of solid waste disposed of to New Zealand landfills annually is estimated to have reduced from 3.180 million tonnes in 1995 to 3.156 million tonnes in 2006.

Converted to tonnes of waste disposed of to landfill per thousand dollars of GDP, the estimated waste disposed of in 2006 was 29% lower than in 1995.

Many potentially useful materials continue to be disposed of to New Zealand landfills and cleanfills. Organic (mostly garden and food) waste, timber, and construction and demolition waste make up nearly 50% of waste disposed of to landfills.

Recycling rates are increasing. In 2006, 73 per cent of New Zealanders had access to kerbside recycling, up from 20 per cent in 1996, and 97 per cent had access to either kerbside recycling or drop-off centres.

In 2005, 329,283 tonnes of paper, plastic, card, glass, steel, and aluminium collected through municipal recycling were diverted from being sent to landfills. When commercial waste is included, the total amount of material diverted from landfills is estimated to be about 2.4 million tonnes a year.

Comment

The Waste chapter uses data already published in April 2007 in Targets in the New Zealand Waste Strategy – 2006 Review of Progress.

The findings of the Waste chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its  Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Develop national regulations specifically concerning the management of hazardous waste and introduce mandatory and comprehensive systems for tracking its transport, treatment and disposal.
  • Expand and upgrade waste treatment and disposal facilities (e.g. landfills, hazardous waste platforms, and waste water treatment plants), promoting co-operation among territorial authorities where this will lead to economies of scale, and applying the polluter pays principle.
  • Increase regulatory support for recovery or recycling (including deposit-refund systems) of priority waste, such as end-of-life vehicles and electronic goods, building on the extended producer responsibility principle.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Waste chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • DraftWaste Minimisation (Solids) Bill under consideration, which proposes a waste levy and enhanced product stewardship provisions (extended producer responsibility provisions).
  • The 2002 New ZealandWaste Strategy
  • ‘Towards Zero Waste’ public space recycling programme, announced in 2007 as part of the Government’s six sustainability initiatives.
  • 2004 New Zealand Packaging Accord, a joint industry and central government initiative.
  • Govt3 programme (a Ministry for the Environment programme that helps central government agencies become more sustainable, including encouraging waste minimisation)
  • The New Zealand Recycled Compost Standard
  • The joint regional and central government Reduce your Rubbish campaign.
  • WasteTRACK – a system for tracking hazardous waste disposal implemented in 2006
  • Policy Framework to Reduce and Safely Manage Hazardous Wastes in New Zealand, first published in 2005
  • Best practice guidelines on landfill management
  • Proposed national environmental standard to address adverse effects resulting from failing on-site wastewater systems

The findings of the Waste chapter provide opportunities to highlight the government’s commitment to sustainability through the funding of $4.6 million for public recycling facilities announced in Budget 2007.

Report chapter: Air

Indicator

Air quality in managed airsheds

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • PM10 particulates
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Ground-level ozone

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

New Zealand has good air quality in most locations for most of the time. However, air quality can be affected in 30 locations, affecting about 53% of the population.

Most air quality problems stem from high winter concentrations of PM10 particulates from coal and wood used for home heating. Auckland also experiences high levels of PM10 particulates from road transport.

Levels of PM10 particulates appear to be falling in the main centres, although the influence of weather makes it difficult to assess trends. Levels of PM10 particulates at roadside locations in Auckland appear to have fallen over the past 10 years.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide are at an acceptable level around New Zealand, with the exception of some locations in Auckland affected by traffic emissions. Emissions of nitrogen dioxideinAuckland appear to be increasing.

Levels of carbon monoxide, mostly from traffic emissions, were of concern 10 years ago. Since then, concentrations appear to have fallen at monitored locations, most likely due to improvements in vehicle technology.

Sulphur dioxide levels reduced in the 1980s and are considered to be low in most parts of the country, probably helped by changes in vehicle fuel composition. However, Marsden Point and some other individual locations have higher levels.

Ground-level ozone concentrations are satisfactory.

Comment

The Air chapter uses data already in the public domain. However presenting regional air quality data at a national level is relatively new.

The Air chapter repeats the public finding of the Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (HAPINZ) Study, (published in July 2007) which reported that approximately 1,100 New Zealanders die prematurely each year from exposure to air pollution. The number of New Zealanders who die prematurely from traffic-related air pollution is similar to the number killed in road accidents each year.

The findings of the Air chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its  Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Develop economic and regulatory measures to reduce air pollution.
  • Augment measures to encourage improved emissions performance of motor vehicles and to internalise the environmental costs of road transport (e.g. fuel taxes, fuel quality standards, inspection of in-use motor vehicles, road-user charges).

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Air chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • Regulation under the RMA in the form of national environmental standards for air quality introduced in 2004.  These set health-based standards for ambient air quality for 5 major pollutants, prohibit the open burning of materials that release dioxins and other toxics, and ensure that methane gas generated by large landfills is flared.
  • Included in the regulations is a design standard for wood burners implemented in 2005.  A national audit of this design standard in 2006 revealed poor compliance by manufacturers. The government continues to work with NZ manufacturers to improve performance.
  • Warm Homes programme initiated in 2004.  Pilot projects under this programme have seen retrofitting of clean heat into existing homes in Timaru, Tokoroa and Taumaranui. 
  • Improvements in air quality monitoring – over $800,000 assistance from the Sustainable Management Fund to purchase air quality monitoring equipment.
  • Preparation of a national inventory for sulphur dioxide.

A number of Transport initiatives, aimed at improving air quality, are also underway and under development. Examples include:

  • Improvements in fuel quality (including the phasing out of lead and phased reductions in sulphur from 2002) with resulting improvements for air quality.
  • Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule announced in 2003
  • Vehicle Exhaust Emissions Rule 2008 (Under Development).
  • Choke the Smoke campaign launched in 2007.
  • The 2002 New Zealand Transport Strategy and the forthcoming Implementing New Zealand’s Transport Strategy
  • The 2002 National Walking and Cycling Strategy
  • The 2004 National Rail Strategy to 2015
  • Biofuels Sales Obligation.
  • Vehicle Fuel Economy Labelling Scheme approved in 2007
  • Fuel$aver website, launched in 2006, to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles

The findings of the Air chapter provide opportunities to highlight government’s Budget 2007 commitment of $66.95 million over the next four years through the EnergyWise Homes package to help New Zealanders live in warm, dry and healthy homes. This includes funding of $23 million for an interest-free loans scheme to help householders pay for energy efficiency and cleaner heating, with $5.4 million targeted at the installation of clean forms of heating for low-income households in areas of poor air quality.

Report chapter: Atmosphere

Indicator

Emissions and removals of greenhouse gases

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Estimated emissions of greenhouse gases:  
    • Carbon dioxide
    • Methane
    • Nitrous oxide
    • Sulphur hexafluoride
    • Perfluorocarbons
  • Estimates of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere as a result of absorption by forestry.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Greenhouse gas emissions

In 2005, total emissions of greenhouse gases in New Zealand were 77.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Between 1990 and 2005, total greenhouse gas emissionsincreased by 25%, reflecting our growing population and economy.

Methane and nitrous oxide from the agricultural sector contribute nearly 50 per cent of our total emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions, largely from energy generation and transport, contribute most of the other 50 per cent.

Between 1990-2005, carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by forest growth (termed forest sinks) increased by 29% to 24.5 million tonnes, largely because of increases in plantation forestry in the mid-1990s.

Comment

The Atmosphere chapter reports on greenhouse gas emissions using data previously published in July 2007 in New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2005.

The findings of the Atmosphere chapter confirm that New Zealand has an unusual profile of greenhouse gas emissions for a developed nation.

Many other developed nations have comparatively lower agricultural emissions, and higher emissions from energy generation.

The findings of the Atmosphere chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its  Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Define and implement measures to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture and forestry sectors, prioritising those that meet other environmental objectives so as to capture ‘win-win’ opportunities.
  • Adopt a clear and comprehensive package of climate change policy measures to meet New Zealand’s international commitments.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Atmosphere chapter are underway and under development. These include a number of initiatives listed above under the Transport and Energy  sections, as well as:

  • The 2007 announcement of an Emissions Trading Scheme which will price carbon emissions
  • The 2007 New Zealand Energy Strategy to 2050
  • The 2007 New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy
  • Announcements in 2007 to achieve carbon neutrality in the public sector. Six departments will be carbon neutral by 2012, with the other 28 public service departments on a path to carbon neutrality by 2012
  • 2004 Amendment of the RMA to ensure the effects of climate change are taken into account in decision-making under the RMA.
  • Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, launched in 2002 - $45 million in booster funding from government over the next 5 years, in addition to the annual investment of $10 million in out years.
  • Projects to Reduce Emissions – 41 projects underway or complete to date
  • Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative announced in 2006
  • Proposed economic instruments to reduce transport CO2 emissions to developing architecture for a differential pricing regime based on fuel economy
  • The 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action, covering adaptation to climate change, mitigation of climate change additional to the emissions trading scheme and business opportunities arising from climate change.

The findings of the Atmosphere chapter provide opportunities to highlight the government’s commitment of $10.4 million for starting to make the public sector carbon neutral; $15.5 million commitment to increase the uptake of solar water heating systems; $4 million commitment for international collaboration on agricultural and forestry research to fight climate change; $11.1 million commitment from government to research Antarctica’s role in climate change and global environmental systems; $66.95 million over four years for the Energywise Homes package, to fund a range of measures to improve the energy efficiency of New Zealand households; and the recent announcement of an additional $6.7 million funding for climate change research; commitment of $50 million for the Afforestation Grant Scheme;  $41 million investment over 8 years in agritech transfer and farmer education;  $10 million investment in R&D and commercialisation of bioenergy and energy efficiency initiatives in the agricultural sector; including $3.125 million in funding for R&D on biochar (the use of charcoal to improve soil productivity and potentially sequester carbon into soils) over the next four years;  $6 million in support for farm-scale greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting, all announced in Budget 2007.

In addition, $175 million over 5 years has been allocated to the Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action. An assistance package offered to forestry is worth around $825 million at a carbon price of $15 a tonne.

Indicator

Stratospheric ozone levels

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Concentrations of stratospheric ozone.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Ozone measured over Central Otago has stabilised in the past decade. The monitored summertime levels of ultraviolet radiation in New Zealand have tracked changes in ozone in recent years.

Ozone levels are expected to continue to improve as refrigerants and other chemicals that deplete the ozone layer are phased out in line with international protocols.

Comment

The Atmosphere chapter uses existing information, which may nonetheless be new to some readers.

The chapter presents positive findings on ozone levels over New Zealand, providing opportunities to highlight that global action to resolve environmental issues such as the ozone hole can be effective.   This is relevant to current climate change policies and initiatives.

The chapter findings also provide an opportunity to highlight the Government’s decision to phase out the use of methyl bromide (see Relevant government initiatives opposite).

New Zealand’s use of methyl bromide was noted in the OECD Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand, released in April 2007.

Relevant government initiatives

New Zealand’s obligations under the Montreal Protocol, to reduce our use of ozone depleting substances, are implemented through the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996 and the Ozone Layer Protection Regulations 1996.

The parties to the Montreal Protocol approved an exemption for the New Zealand strawberry industry for soil fumigation for the year ending 31 December 2007. The Government has announced that no further nominations for exemption for methyl bromide in the strawberry industry will be made.

Report chapter: Land

Indicator

Land cover

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Land cover across New Zealand’s surface area, as measured by satellite imagery.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Between 1997 and 2002, satellite measurements showed that:

  • pastoral land cover decreased by just over 1 per cent or 125,200 hectares
  • human settlements increased by just over 3 per cent or 5,300 hectares
  • native vegetation and native forest cover (excluding other native land cover) decreased by 0.15 per cent or 17,200 hectares
  • exotic forest cover increased by about 8 per cent or 139,500 hectares.

In 2002, pasture covered just over 39 per cent of New Zealand’s total land area; exotic forest covered 7.31 per cent; and native forest, native vegetation, and other native land cover covered 50 per cent. Although horticultural use is estimated to have remained relatively steady at just under 1.6 per cent of our total land area, horticultural land use in New Zealand has shown significant diversification.

In 2006, the total area of planted forestry was estimated to be 1.8 million hectares. While the total land area inexotic forestry in New Zealand between 1991 and 2005 remained higher than that in 1990, the trend of increasing land area in exotic forestry peaked in 2003.

Comment

While the data used in the Land chapter is already in the public domain, the way it is presented graphically using satellite maps may be new.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives which are relevant to land cover are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • The 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action, covering adaptation to climate change, mitigation of climate change additional to the emissions trading scheme and business opportunities arising from climate change.
  • Ongoing funding for local initiatives through the SustainableLandManagement Fund
  • Inclusion of the forestry sector into the emissions trading scheme from 2008.
  • The 2007 announcement of the Afforestation Grant Scheme.
  • Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative to encourage afforestation.
  • Reforestation of erosion prone hill country land between 1997 and 2002 provides an opportunity to showcase the success of initiatives such as the East Coast Forestry Project (set up in 1992).  The project has helped plant approximately 32,000 hectares of erosion-prone land and a further 5,000 hectares have been approved for planting in the near future.
  • Land tenure review of environmentally sensitive Crown leasehold land in the South Island – sensitive areas returned to Department of Conservation estate.
  • Land tenure review exclusion: high country pastoral lease properties with highly significant lakeside, landscape, biodiversity and other values that are unlikely to be protected to the satisfaction of the Crown by the tenure review process be excluded from the process.
  • Nature Heritage Fund is a government fund used to purchase properties containing high conservation values.
  • Land Information New Zealand Biosecurity Strategy to ensure land management contracts are in-line with biosecurity requirements.

The findings of the Land chapter provide opportunities to promote the government’s Budget 2007 allocation of $37.4 million to biosecurity over the next four years to protect (among other things) our primary production.

In addition, $175 million over 5 years has been allocated to the Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action. An assistance package offered to forestry is worth around $825 million at a carbon price of $15 a tonne.

Indicator

Land use

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Estimated land use in New Zealand, as surveyed and mapped.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

In 2004, natural land cover (for example, tussock, native forest, rivers, lakes, snow, ice and scrub) was New Zealand’s largest land use at just over 52%.  Pastoral land use (e.g. sheep, beef, and dairy farming) is our second largest land use at just over 37%. 

Land use has diversified. In both 1997 and 2002, horticulture, including vineyards, orchards, and perennial crops, covered just less than 1.6 per cent of our land. However, the area of land in vineyards grew by 28 per cent over the same period.

Although the total area of New Zealand land in pasture has decreased since 1972, dairy pasture has increased by 39 percent and agricultural land use has intensified.

The national dairy herd has grown by 34 per cent since 1994 as farmers have responded to economic signals by converting suitable dry-stock pasture, exotic forestry, and existing dairy farms into more intensive dairy farms. 

Since 1998, the rate of new exotic forest plantings has declined to the lowest level since 1959. In addition, some exotic forest planting is being converted to pastoral land use.

From the mid-1990s, there has been a reduction in the amount of new exotic forestry plantings. 

In 2004, a new trend of not replanting exotic forestry after harvesting became apparent.

Comment

The deforestation and land use intensification findings echo those of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory & Climate Change Net Position Reports.

The intensification of pastoral land use has been reported elsewhere (for example, the PCE’s 2004 report ‘Growing for Good’).

The findings of the Land chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its  Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Introduce market-based instruments to internalise the environmental costs of non-point source discharges from agriculture (e.g. run-off of fertilisers, urine from grazing stock).
  • Further apply sustainable land and forest management approaches (e.g. environmental farm planning, nutrient budgeting, application of sustainable forest management practices) & assess their effectiveness in reducing pressures on the environment.
  • Define & implement measures to reduce net emissions from agriculture and forestry, prioritising those that meet other environmental objectives so as to capture ‘win-win’ opportunities.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives which are relevant to land use are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • The 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action.
  • Inclusion of the forestry sector into the emissions trading scheme from 2008.
  • Ongoing funding for local initiatives through the SustainableLandManagement Fund.
  • The 2007 announcement of the New ZealandWood Campaign.
  • The 2007 announcement of the Afforestation Grant Scheme.
  • Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative to encourage afforestation.
  • Reforestation of erosion prone hill country land between 1997 and 2002 provides an opportunity to showcase the success of initiatives such as the East Coast Forestry Project (set up in 1992).  The project has helped plant approximately 32,000 hectares of erosion-prone land and a further 5,000 hectares have been approved for planting in the near future.
  • Land tenure review of environmentally sensitive Crown leasehold land in the South Island – sensitive areas returned to Department of Conservation estate.
  • Land tenure review exclusion: high country pastoral lease properties with highly significant lakeside, landscape, biodiversity and other values that are unlikely to be protected to the satisfaction of the Crown by the tenure review process be excluded from the process.

The findings of the Land chapter provide opportunities to promote the government’s Budget 2007 allocation of $8 million over four years for research in the area of sustainable primary production, including land-based production; as well its commitment under the Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action of $4 million towards the New Zealand Wood Campaign; commitment of $50 million for the Afforestation Grant Scheme;  $41 million investment over 8 years in agritech transfer and farmer education;  $10 million investment in R&D and commercialisation of bioenergy and energy efficiency initiatives in the agricultural sector;  including $3.125 million in funding for R&D on biochar (the use of charcoal to improve soil productivity and potentially sequester carbon into soils), over the next four year, $6 million in support for farm-scale greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting; and $6 million in support of an agricultural greenhouse gas footprint strategy.

In addition, $175 million over 5 years has been allocated to the Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action. An assistance package offered to forestry is worth around $825 million at a carbon price of $15 a tonne.

Indicator

Soil health

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The chemical, biological and physical properties of soils under forests, crops and agricultural land: 
    • Carbon
    • Nitrogen
    • pH
    • Olsen phosphate
    • Potentially mineralisable nitrogen
    • Macroporosity

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Monitoring under the 500 Soils Project found total organic carbon was lowest on cropping land and tussock grassland.

Nitrogen and potentially mineralisable nitrogen were highest under pastures than any other land uses. 

Soil pH (acidity or alkalinity) under exotic forests was found to be similar to that under native forests. Other agricultural land uses exhibit higher pH values (are more alkaline).

Monitoring found moderate soil compaction (low macroporosity) on a large proportion of monitored pastures and some cropping land uses. Soil compaction is caused by farm animals treading on pastures, and vehicle traffic and cultivation on croplands.

By land use, monitoring showed a loss of organic matter and reduced soil structural stability under cropping land

By land use, monitoring showed a nitrogen build-up under some dairy pastures and croplands, coupled with high levels of available phosphate, reflecting application of fertilisers.

Comment

The findings of the Land chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in their Environmental Performance Review recommendations:

  • Further apply sustainable land and forest management approaches (e.g. environmental farm planning, nutrient budgeting, application of sustainable forest management practices) and assess their effectiveness in reducing pressures on the environment.
  • Define and implement measures to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and forestry, prioritising those that meet other environmental objectives so as to capture ‘win-win’ opportunities.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives which are relevant to soils are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • The 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action.
  • Ongoing funding for local initiatives through the SustainableLandManagement Fund.
  • Inclusion of the forestry sector into the emissions trading scheme from 2008.
  • The 2007 announcement of the Afforestation Grant Scheme.
  • Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative to encourage afforestation.
  • Reforestation of erosion prone hill country land between 1997 and 2002 provides an opportunity to showcase the success of initiatives such as the East Coast Forestry Project (set up in 1992).  The project has helped plant approximately 32,000 hectares of erosion-prone land and a further 5,000 hectares have been approved for planting in the near future.
  • The clean up of the Mapua contaminated site, which began in 2005 and is nearing completion.
  • The clean up of the Tui Mine contaminated site, to begin in late 2008.
  • Scoping of the potential for a national environmental standard to contribute toward achieving a comprehensive policy framework for contaminated land is underway.

The findings of the Land chapter provide opportunities to promote the government’s commitment of $50 million for the Afforestation Grant Scheme; $6 million in support for farm-scale greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting; and $6 million in support of an agricultural greenhouse gas footprint strategy.  It also allows the Government to highlight funding allocated under the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund – $4.2 million was spent on 14 projects in 2006/07 and a further 7 projects underway in 2007/08 with more planned during the year.

Indicator

Soil intactness of erosion-prone hill country

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Estimates of vegetation on erosion-prone hill country.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

About 10 per cent of New Zealand is classed as severely erodible. The Gisborne region comprises 7.8 per cent of the North Island and 26 per cent of the country’s severely erodible land.

The loss of soil through erosion, and transport by rivers to the sea, was estimated in 1996 to be 400 million tonnes a year.

During the 1990s, hill country erosion eased in some regions, as some pasture on erosion-prone land was planted into forestry or left to revert to scrub.

Satellite measurements between 1997 and 2002 showed that there was a reduction of 36,400 hectares of land covered by pasture on erosion-prone hill country during this period.

Measurements show that of the 36,400 hectare reduction in pasture on erosion-prone hill country, 36,300 hectares were converted to exotic forestry or retired and left to revert to scrub.

Comment

The findings of the Land chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Further apply sustainable land and forest management approaches (e.g. environmental farm planning, nutrient budgeting, application of sustainable forest management practices) and assess their effectiveness in reducing pressures on the environment.
  • Define and implement measures to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and forestry, prioritising those that meet other environmental objectives so as to capture ‘win-win’ opportunities.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives which are relevant to erosion control are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • The 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action.
  • Inclusion of the forestry sector into the emissions trading scheme from 2008.
  • The 2007 announcement of the Afforestation Grant Scheme.
  • Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative to encourage afforestation.
  • Reforestation of erosion prone hill country land between 1997 and 2002 provides an opportunity to showcase the success of initiatives such as the East Coast Forestry Project (set up in 1992).  The project has helped plant approximately 32,000 hectares of erosion-prone land and a further 5,000 hectares have been approved for planting in the near future.

The findings of the Land chapter provide opportunities to promote the government’s Budget 2007 funding of $10 million to combat hill country erosion, and $2.3 million to fund local capacity to deal with adverse weather events.

Report chapter: Freshwater

Indicator

Water quality in rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Water quality in rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers: 
    • concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus in rivers and lakes, and nitrate in groundwater)
    • concentrations of bacteria (E. coli) in rivers and lakes, including swimming spots
    • visual clarity in rivers and lakes
    • water temperature in rivers
    • dissolved oxygen in rivers
    • richness of macroinvertebrate species in rivers.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

By international standards, freshwater in New Zealand is both clean and plentiful in supply. However, some aspects of water quality are declining in areas that are dominated by intensive land use.

Rivers in catchments that have little or no farming or urban development make up about half of the total length of New Zealand’s rivers and have good water quality. Water quality is generally poorest in rivers and streams in urban and farmed catchments.

Two-thirds of New Zealand’s lakes are likely to have good to excellent water quality. Small, shallow lakes surrounded by farmland have the poorest water quality of all our lakes.

Over the 2006/07 summer, 60 percent of the swimming spots on rivers and lakes that were monitored were safe to swim in (had low levels of bacteria). Ten percent of the monitored swimming spots frequently had high levels of bacteria.

Sixty-one percent of the groundwaters in New Zealand that are monitored have normal nitrate levels; the remainder have nitrate levels that are higher than the natural background levels, and 5 percent have nitrate levels that make the water unsafe to drink. Twenty percent of the groundwaters that are monitored are unsafe to drink because they have high levels of bacteria.

Pollution from organic waste in rivers has reduced since the late 1980s, indicating improved management of point-source discharges of organic waste.

Comment

The Freshwater chapter uses data collated from regional councils.

The findings on water quality are consistent with recent public commentary about nutrient levels in rural waterways.

The Freshwater chapter contains statements which compare New Zealand’s freshwater quality with that of other OECD countries. Although the information is publicly available, this is the first time it has been presented in this way.

The findings of the Freshwater chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Issue a national policy statement on freshwater quality, establish national environmental standards for drinking water sources, and strengthen national approaches for protecting receiving water quality.
  • Introduce market-based instruments to internalise the environmental costs of non-point source discharges from agriculture (e.g. run-off of fertilisers, urine from grazing stock).

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives which are relevant to water quality are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • Sustainable Water Programme of Action established in 2003.
  • National environmental standard to improve the protection of drinking water sources approved.
  • Some aspects of the Sustainable Land Management package (climate change policies), 2007.
  • Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme.
  • Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme, to be launched in late 2007.
  • Health (Drinking Water) Amendment Bill under consideration.
  • The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord signed in 2003, a joint industry, regional council and central government initiative.
  • Microbiological Water Quality Guidelines for Marine and Freshwater Recreation Areas.
  • A Reference Group has been set up to inform a decision on whether a national policy statement or national environmental standard is required to help manage stormwater runoff from roads.
  • Primary Sector Partnership Group, established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, to develop targets for freshwater management in the primary sector.

The findings of the Freshwater chapter also provide an opportunity to promote the government’s allocation of $36.7 million towards improving Lake Taupo’s water quality, and financial support to Environment Bay of Plenty to improve water quality of lake Rotorua, including $4 million for the Ohau Channel diversion structure and a commitment of $8.8 million for wetland conservation over the next four years.

Indicator

Freshwater demand

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The volumes of water allocated to human uses are measured.  This is also known as total (consumptive) water allocation.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

By international standards, freshwater in New Zealand is both clean and plentiful in supply. However, demand for water is increasing.

It is estimated that total water use in New Zealand currently equates to two to three times more water per person than in most other OECD countries.

The allocation of water in New Zealand increased by 50 percent between 1999 and 2006. This is mainly a result of an increase in the area of irrigated land. Irrigation now uses almost 80 percent of all water allocated.

The Canterbury and Ōtago regions account for almost three-quarters of the total allocation, with 55 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively.

Comment

The findings on water availability are consistent with recent public commentary about water availability, which have resulted in calls for water pricing in some water-stressed regions.

The Freshwater chapter contains statements which compare New Zealand’s freshwater quantity with that of other OECD countries. Although the information is publicly available, this is the first time it has been presented in this way.

The findings of the Freshwater chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Review recommendations:

  • Strengthen and expand the use of water demand management measures (e.g. volumetric metering, pricing for full recovery of water management costs, water efficiency standards).
  • Further expand the knowledge base concerning sustainable abstraction levels of key aquifers, and strengthen regulatory control of total allowable abstraction.
  • Consider cap and trade systems and other regulatory and market-based instruments to rationalise the allocation of water abstraction rights in water-stressed regions.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives which are relevant to water availability are underway and under development.  Examples include:

  • Sustainable Water Programme of Action established in 2003.
  • Proposed national environmental standard for water measuring devices underway.
  • Proposed national environmental standard on methods for assessing ecological flow requirements underway.
  • Proposed national policy statement on freshwater management underway.
  • Some aspects of the 2007 Sustainable land management and climate change Plan of Action.
  • The 2004 Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Act which set up an independent Board to develop and approve a regional plan to guide water allocation in the Waitaki Catchment.
  • Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme, to be launched in late 2007.
  • 14 National Water Conservation Orders in place.
  • Primary Sector Partnership Group, established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, to develop targets for freshwater management in the primary sector.

Report chapter: Oceans

Indicator

Fish stocks under the quota management system

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The proportion of the total commercial catch (by weight) from assessed fish species under the Quota Management System.
  • The status of assessed fish stocks under the Quota Management System.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

In 2006, the commercial fishing industry caught about 525,000 tonnes of fish in New Zealand waters.

Sixty-five per cent of this catch was from fish species that have been scientifically assessed.

Of these species, 85 per cent have been sustainably fished and 15 per cent are recovering.

Comment

The Oceans chapter uses information that is already available in the public domain. However, the visual presentation of some of the data using maps is likely to be new. It is also the first time that some of the data used has all been brought together in one document.

The finding that 85 per cent of New Zealand’s scientifically assessed fish stocks under the Quota Management System have been sustainably fished but 15 per cent have been over-fished (i.e. are recovering) is likely to be new information for many readers.

The findings of the Oceans chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Finalise and implement the oceans policy and pursue the further expansion of marine reserves and the strengthening of regional co-operation for the management of high seas fish stocks.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives relate to the findings of the Oceans chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • Quota Management System – acknowledged by the OECD as helping to avoid stock collapses and also serves as an example for other OECD countries.
  • Fisheries Standards: a range of performance and process standards to support objective-based fisheries management.
  • Fisheries Act precautionary approach:  Proposed amendment to section 10 of the Fisheries Act to better reflect the internationally accepted view of the precautionary approach to fisheries management decision making.
  • Reductions in hoki and other high-value quota for the 2007-2008 fishing year.
  • 2007 release of the New Zealand Aquaculture Government Strategy.
  • The 2005 Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing.
  • 2007 consultation document Improving Regulation of Environmental Effects in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This is the Government’s priority project under the Oceans Policy banner.
  • National Aquatic Biodiversity Information System
  • The review of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (1994)
  • OS20/20 Chatham/Challenger project: a data collection programme to identify new resources of economic return, improve New Zealand’s ability to manage existing resources, and develop policies for the sustainable management of our coastal area and Exclusive Economic Zone.
  • Fiordland Marine Guardians.
  • New ZealandMarine Oil Spill Response Strategy (2006).

The Oceans chapter provides further opportunities to highlight the commitment of $900,000 over four years for research on commercial fish catches in coastal waters in Budget 2007.

Indicator

Seabed trawling in deep waters

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The area ‘swept’ (trawled over by a vessel towing gear along or near the seabed) by commercial trawlers required to report position by latitude and longitude.
  • The types of fish expected to be found in areas that have been swept.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Large commercial vessels conducted about 970,000 seabed trawls between1989 and 1998. During this period, the area swept by trawls averaged 55,000–60,000 square kilometres each year. Since 1998, the area trawled by large commercial vessels has reduced to about 50,000 square kilometres in 2005, probably due to reductions in the allowable catch for some high-value species.

Between 1989 and 1998, an estimated 3.5 million dredges and trawls were undertaken by smaller vessels.

Comment

The findings of the Oceans chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Finalise and implement the oceans policy and pursue the further expansion of marine reserves and the strengthening of regional co-operation for the management of high seas fish stocks.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives relate to the findings of the Oceans chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • Quota Management System – acknowledged by the OECD as helping to avoid stock collapses and also serves as an example for other OECD countries.
  • Fisheries Standards: a range of performance and process standards to support objective-based fisheries management.
  • Fisheries Act precautionary approach:  Proposed amendment to section 10 of the Fisheries Act to better reflect the internationally accepted view of the precautionary approach to fisheries management decision making.
  • Reductions in hoki and other high-value quota for the 2007-2008 fishing year.
  • The 2005 Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing.
  • 2007 consultation document Improving Regulation of Environmental Effects in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This is the Government’s priority project under the Oceans Policy banner.
  • Closure of 19 seamounts to trawling.
  • Development of a Benthic Impacts Strategy.
  • OS20/20 Chatham/Challenger project: a data collection programme to identify new resources of economic return, improve New Zealand’s ability to manage existing resources, and develop policies for the sustainable management of our coastal area and EEZ.
  • New ZealandMarine Oil Spill Response Strategy (2006).

The Oceans chapter provides further opportunities to highlight the commitment of $900,000 over four years for research on commercial fish catches in coastal waters in Budget 2007.

Indicator

Water quality at coastal swimming spots

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • Concentration of bacteria (enterococci) at coastal swimming spots.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Water quality at our coastal swimming spots is primarily affected by human activity on land.

Over the 2006/2007 summer, 80 per cent of the 380 monitored beaches had safe levels of bacteria almost all the time. Only 1 per cent of sites breached bacterial guidelines regularly.

Water quality at our beaches appears to have improved in recent years.

Comment

The OCED noted in their Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand that the implementation of coastal management plans has helped reduce pollutant loading to coastal waters and thus improved coastal bathing water quality.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives are underway to reduce faecal pollution in our freshwaters (see the Freshwater section above) through upgrades of sewerage systems and improvements to stormwater management.  This has a secondary impact of reducing faecal pollution in the coastal marine environment.

Coastal bathing waters are monitored closely in summer, and the results made public. Samples are taken several times per month in summer at some 400 coastal water quality monitoring sites. Comparison of 2004/05 summer coastal water quality data with the guidelines for recreational water quality showed that 92% of the sites were consistently compliant [That is, at least 90% of the samples taken over the bathing season are within guideline limits.] and that the number of consistently compliant sites had risen by 7% since the summer of 2003/04.

Report chapter: Biodiversity

Indicator

Land area with native vegetation, including area under legal protection

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The area of land covered by native vegetation, including the area under legal protection.

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

About 44 per cent of New Zealand’s land area is covered by native vegetation, most of which is in hill country and alpine areas.  Between 1997 and 2001, an estimated 16,550 hectares (0.12 per cent) of native land cover (including vegetative and non-vegetative native cover, such as sand and gravel) have been either converted to other uses or changed as the result of natural processes.

By international comparison, a large proportion (32 per cent) of New Zealand’s land area is legally protected for conservation purposes, either as public conservation land (8.43 million hectares) or through conservation initiatives on private land (221,473 hectares).

The area of public conservation land has increased by 4.56 per cent between 2004 and 2007. Private land under legal protection has increased by 51.4 per cent between 2004 and 2006.

Comment

The Biodiversity chapter uses information available in the public domain.

The findings of the chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD Review recommendations:

  • Issue national policy guidance concerning conservation of biodiversity on private land, and ensure that nature conservation objectives are fully reflected in spatial and coastal plans.
  • Strengthen and harmonise monitoring of major pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems, both within and outside protected areas.
  • Further develop partnership approaches to conserving biodiversity on private land, prioritising conservation of ecosystems that are under-represented in public conservation lands and waters.
  • Develop and implement measures to mitigate environmental pressures associated with increasing tourist numbers and tourism concessions on conservation lands and waters.

The OECD Review noted that protected areas cover 32% of New Zealand’s land area and 7.5% of our territorial sea. This is high compared to other OECD nations.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Biodiversity chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • New ZealandBiodiversity Strategy 2000.
  • The 2007 Statement of national priorities for protecting rare and threatened native biodiversity on private land.
  • The CrownPastoral Land Act 1998 authorised the review of 304 state-owned properties totalling 2.37 million hectares in the South Island high country.
  • Mainland islands – more than 64,000 hectares and a range of native species are intensively managed at six sites.
  • The establishment by DOC of a suite of kiwi sanctuaries.
  • Land Information New Zealand Biosecurity Strategy to ensure land management contracts are in-line with biosecurity requirements.
  • The findings of the Biodiversity chapter provide opportunities to highlight the government’s commitment of $8.8 million for wetland conservation over the next four years, $37.4 million to biosecurity over the next four years and funding of $187 million over the five years following the release of the Biodiversity Strategy (over and above existing biodiversity funding) to implement the Biodiversity Strategy.

In addition, around $2.8 million a year is provided to land owners and communities to carry out conservation, generally on private land.

Indicator

Distribution of selected native plants and animals

Variable(s) used to report on the indicator

  • The distribution of selected native species:
    • short tailed bat
    • kiwi
    • kaka
    • kokako
    • yellowhead
    • wrybill
    • dactylanthus

Key findings relating to the indicator/variable(s)

Twenty-eight per cent of New Zealand’s birds (native and endemic) have reduced their area of occurrence since 1985. Ninety-three per cent of these are endemic species.

Decreases since the 1970s are largely due to the impacts of introduced pest species, rather than further habitat loss.

Comment

The Biodiversity chapter uses information available in the public domain.

However, some of the data on indicator species is presented using maps – it is likely that this is this first time this data has been presented in this form. It is also the first time that some data has been brought together in one document.

The findings of the Biodiversity chapter highlight the issues addressed by the OECD in its Environmental Review recommendations:

  • Further develop partnership approaches to conserving biodiversity on private land, prioritising conservation of ecosystems that are under-represented in public conservation lands and waters.

Relevant government initiatives

A number of government initiatives related to the findings of the Biodiversity chapter are underway and under development. Examples include:

  • New ZealandBiodiversity Strategy 2000.
  • The 2007 Statement of national priorities for protecting rare and threatened native biodiversity on private land.
  • The CrownPastoral Land Act 1998 authorised the review of 304 state-owned properties totalling 2.37 million hectares in the South Island high country.
  • Mainland islands – more than 64,000 hectares and a range of native species are intensively managed at six sites.
  • The establishment by DOC of a suite of kiwi sanctuaries.
  • Land Information New Zealand Biosecurity Strategy to ensure land management contracts are in-line with biosecurity requirements.
  • The findings of the Biodiversity chapter provide opportunities to highlight the government’s commitment of $8.8 million for wetland conservation over the next four years, $37.4 million to biosecurity over the next four years and funding of $187 million over the five years following the release of the Biodiversity Strategy (over and above existing biodiversity funding) to implement the Biodiversity Strategy.

In addition, around $2.8 million a year is provided in grants to land owners and communities to carry out conservation, generally on private land.

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