The report explores land-use change and intensification as it presents across different parts of the environment.

Ko Tō tātou whenua 2021 te pūrongo hou o tētahi raupapa pūrongo mō te taiao e whakaputaina ana e Te Manatū mō te Taiao me Tatauranga Aotearoa. Pānuitia te whakarāpopototanga tuihono o te pūrongo i te reo Māori.

Our land 2021 is the latest in a series of environmental reports produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ.

Our land 2021 summary

Land and our wellbeing

Land is our tūrangawaewae, our place to stand. It is central to our identity as New Zealanders. As tangata whenua – people of the land – Māori have a distinct and special connection to land.

Food, shelter, health, connections to other people, and the ability to provide for ourselves and our families contribute significantly to our wellbeing. All depend on having access to good quality land.

Land provides jobs and income, as well as goods to use and to sell like food, timber, and wool.

The health of the land and our wellbeing go hand in hand. Understanding how they are connected is critical for looking after the land and our wellbeing.

The driving forces

The basics of life – where we choose to live and the food we choose to eat – have an influence on the demand for land and how it is used.

New Zealand’s population is projected to reach 6.8 million by 2073, which will continue to drive the demand for food and housing.

Overseas markets are a significant driver of land use. Most of the products of agriculture and forestry are exported, and these activities cover about half of our land. In 2019, New Zealand’s land-based primary industries generated $44 billion in export revenue.

A growing global population increases the demand for timber and food. More people, higher incomes, and changes in consumer behaviour shift the demand for certain goods, causing changes in export markets.

Land use and changes in land use

Some land (15 percent) is particularly good for food production. This highly productive land has a good climate, suitable soil, and is flat or gently sloping.

Highly productive land is at risk of becoming unavailable for agriculture due to housing developments.

Many of our cities developed on and around food producing land – market gardens provided a local food supply for urban dwellers. In the 1950s, urban development of market-gardening land in and around Auckland was already a concern, and it has continued in the past 60 years. The remaining market gardening areas have now been rezoned for development including for urban areas and lifestyle blocks.

The area of highly productive land that was unavailable for agriculture (because it had a house on it) increased by 54 percent for 2002 to 2019. During this period urban areas increased by 31 percent on land that was potentially available for agriculture. The area of residential (housing) land outside city boundaries (rural residential areas) also more than doubled during this time.

Fragmentation of highly productive land can shift it out of commercial production. This happens particularly with the development of lifestyle blocks. Highly productive land became more fragmented between 2002 and 2019, especially through residential development.

Our exports and domestic food production currently rely on the small amount of highly productive land we have. Using land that is not highly productive for food growing, especially horticulture, results in lower yields unless more intensive land management approaches are used.

Land management and the soil

Half of the total land area in Aotearoa New Zealand is now used for agriculture, forestry, and housing.

Intensive land management is about getting the most from each hectare of land – maximising the yield of milk, meat, timber, fruit, vegetables, or crops. Intensive land management risks degrading the quality and health of the soil.

Nationwide, 80 percent of soil monitoring sites failed to meet the targets for at least one soil quality indicator. Soil in these areas can be less productive and may need more fertiliser and irrigation to keep up production. No declining or improving trend in soil quality was observed for 1994–2018.

Macroporosity (the number of pore spaces in the soil) was below the target range in 65 percent of dairy farming sites, 48 percent of drystock (beef, sheep, and deer) farming sites, and 46 percent of orchard/vineyard sites sampled between 2014 and 2018. Low macroporosity can reduce the growth of plants and the yield from pastures, especially in wet conditions. Also, water can pond on the surface then run off, which causes erosion and moves topsoil and nutrients into waterways.

Levels of Olsen phosphorus (the amount of available phosphorus in soil) were above the recommended target range for 61 percent of dairy farming and cropping sites and 46 percent of orchard/vineyards sites sampled between 2014 and 2018. A trend of increasing Olsen phosphorus was also observed at cropping and drystock sites for 1996–2018. High levels of Olsen phosphorus can indicate that too much phosphorus fertiliser has been applied.

A study of irrigated and non-irrigated pasture sites across New Zealand found that irrigated pastures had significantly less soil carbon and nitrogen than non-irrigated pastures. An increase in the area of irrigated land may increase the loss of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and increase nitrogen leaching.

While soil at most monitoring sites was within the target range for nitrogen, many rivers are polluted with excess nitrogen. Soil quality indicators may not fully capture the impacts of intensive land use on the wider environment. (This includes issues around the use of nitrogen and its effects on freshwater quality.)

The concept of soil quality focuses on its intended use. Soil health, however, is a broader concept that includes a soil’s ongoing capacity to function as a living ecosystem that sustains plant, animal, and human health. A better understanding of soil health, ecosystem processes, and the connections between environmental processes is needed. This would enable us to ensure that healthy soils are available for future generations.

Sustaining and enhancing the health of soil and other resources is a significant feature of Māori land management. Questions such as ‘what can we do for the soil?’ are encouraged.

Soil is a living ecosystem that sustains all life, including microbes, plants, animals, and humans. Soil degradation reduces its mauri (life force) and productivity, as well as the hauora (wellbeing) of people.

Effects on the wider environment

Land connects every part of the complex system that is te taiao, the environment. How we use land can therefore affect the many interactions between lakes, rivers, oceans, air, climate, and native species.

Native vegetation continues to be removed in some regions, including the West Coast and Southland. About 25 percent of the total area of native vegetation cover in New Zealand is on land used for sheep and beef farming, compared with 1 percent of total area of native vegetation cover on land used for dairy farming. Only about 3 percent of the native vegetation on sheep and beef farms is permanently protected by covenants.

More intensive agriculture and urban expansion can increase pollution in the freshwater and marine environments.

Applying nitrogen fertiliser and animal effluent to the soil increases the risk of nitrogen moving into freshwater and leaching into groundwater. Phosphorus can accumulate in the soil when phosphorus fertiliser is applied continuously. It enters freshwater mainly when soil with high levels of phosphorus is eroded.

Nitrogen and phosphorus can cause algal blooms in rivers and lakes, reducing the amount of oxygen in the water for plants and for fish to breathe.

The leaching of nitrogen and other nutrients into groundwater can take a long time. In groundwater that was dated using tracers, a sharp increase in nitrogen and other agrochemicals was observed after 1955, corresponding to the start of intensified agriculture.

In 2018, 53 percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions by volume were methane and nitrous oxide, with most coming from agriculture. Emissions from livestock made up 86 percent of methane emissions. After those from animals, fertilisers made the largest contribution to emissions from dairy farms at 15 percent of their carbon footprint. Emissions from nitrogen fertiliser were the highest across all types of fertiliser.

The loss of native vegetation, water pollution, and climate change affect each other and can have cumulative impacts on the environment. The use of a te ao Māori (Māori world view) framework and mātauranga Māori is particularly helpful for understanding and addressing issues that affect several different parts of the environmental system.

Land and a changing climate

Climate change is our generation’s environmental challenge. Its effects are expected to become more intense in the coming years. They could cause agriculture, native ecosystems, infrastructure, and health to look very different in the future.

A longer growing season and warmer temperatures may bring new opportunities but more extreme weather events (like droughts) are likely to seriously affect agricultural production and forestry.

Changes in management practices are anticipated as climate patterns shift. Wine growers could respond by changing the varieties of grapes they grow, and farmers may alter the breed or species of their livestock. Some drought-tolerant grape varieties and pasture species are already being investigated and grown.

The ways we attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate may influence land use. Options include reducing the density of dairy cows, sheep, and other livestock; improving animal performance; using less fertiliser; and breeding sheep that produce fewer emissions.

Policies to mitigate or adapt to climate change will also affect how land is used in the future. In many places local governments have created plans to reduce emissions and manage the risks from sea-level rise and flooding.

Climate change will amplify existing risks to natural and human systems, and create new ones. Untangling the different drivers and their importance is therefore paramount.

Tō tātou whenua 2021 Whakarāpopototanga

Te whenua me tō tātou noho ora

Ko te whenua tō tātou tūrangawaewae. E noho tūāpapa mai ana ki te tuakiri tangata o Aotearoa. Waihoki, he ahurei te hono o te tangata whenua, o ngāi Māori, ki te whenua.

Ko te kai, ko te whakaruruhau, ko te hauora, ko te whakawhanaunga, ko te kimi oranga mō tātou me ō tātou whānau – he pānga nui ō ēnei mea ki te whaiora o te tangata. Waihoki, e whirinaki ana te katoa ki te noho wātea mai o te whenua pai.

Nā te whenua, ko ngā tūranga mahi, ko te whiwhinga moni, ko te rawa hei whakapau, hei hoko atu rānei, pērā i te kai, i te rākau, i te wūru.

He haere kōtui te hauora o te whenua me te hauora o te tangata. Nō reira e toiora ai te whenua, e toiora anō ai hoki te tangata, me mātua mārama tātou ki te hononga o tētahi ki tētahi.

Ngā ākinga

Ko ngā mea taketake o te oranga tangata – arā, ko te wāhi e kōwhiri ai tangata ki te noho, me ngā kai ka kōwhiria e ia hei kai māna – e whai pānga ana ki ngā mea e mātua hiahiatia ana mai i te whenua, he pēhea hoki te whakamahi i te whenua.

E ai ki ngā matapae, ka piki te taupori o Aotearoa ki te 6.8 miriona ā te 2073. Me te aha, ka piki anō te matenui ki te kai me te kāinga noho.

Ko ngā mākete o tāwāhi kei te kaha āki i te āhua o te whakamahi i te whenua. Kei te hokona ki tāwāhi te nuinga o ngā hautaonga ahuwhenua, ahungahere. Ā, ko tōna haurua o ngā whenua o konei, e kapi ana i ēnei mahi. I te 2019, e $44 piriona ngā moni whiwhi i ngā hokonga ki tāwāhi i ahu mai i ngā ahumahi matua ki uta o Aotearoa.

Kei te piki te taupori o te ao. Nō konei, ka piki tonu te hiahia ki te rākau me te kai. Ina tokomaha ake ngā tāngata, ina piki ngā whiwhinga moni a te tangata, ina rerekē hoki ngā whanonga a ngā kaihoko hautaonga, ka rerekē te kaha hiahia ki ētahi hautaonga, me te aha, ka taurangirangi ngā mākete o tāwāhi.

Te whakamahinga whenua me ngā panonitanga whakamahinga whenua

Arā ētahi whenua (ko tētahi 15 ōrau) e tino pai ana mō te whakatupu kai. He whenua mōmona, he pai te āhua o ngā rangi, he pai te oneone, ka mutu he papatairite, he raorao rānei.

Heoi anō, kei riro haere ngā whenua haumako e pai ana mō te ahuwhenua i ngā mahi whakatūtū kāinga noho.

He maha ngā tāone nui o Aotearoa kua tū ake ki ngā wāhi e whakatupuria ana he kai nui ki reira – ko aua māra nui rā hoki hei puna kai tata mō aua tāngata noho tāone. I ngā 1950, kua tīmata kē ngā māharahara ki te toro haere o te tāone o Ākarana ki ngā whenua pai mō te mahi māra, ā, kua 60 tau e mau tonu ana tēnei āhua. Ko ngā whenua māra e toe ana, kua tāpuia ināianei mō kaupapa kē, arā, mō ngā paenoho tāone me ngā punua pāmu.

Mai i te 2002 ki te 2019, kua 54 ōrau te nui ake o ngā whenua haumako kua kore i wātea mō ngā mahi ahuwhenua (i te mea he kāinga kei runga). I taua takiwā anō, e 31 ōrau te nui ake o ngā paenoho tāone ki ngā whenua i wātea i mua mō te ahuwhenua. Waihoki ngā whenua mō ngā paenoho tāngata (ngā kāinga noho) kei waho atu o ngā tāone nui (ngā paenoho tuawhenua), he nui ake i te rearua te pikinga i taua takiwā anō.

Ko te tūāporoporotanga o te whenua tētahi mea e kore ai te whenua e noho tonu ki ngā kaupapa tauhokohoko. Ka tino pēnei te āhua ina hurihia te whenua hei punua pāmu. I kaha te tūāporoporo o ngā whenua haumako mai i te 2002 me te 2019, i te rironga o aua whenua hei hanga kāinga noho.

I tēnei wā e whirinaki ana ngā hokonga ki tāwahi me ngā whakatupunga kai mō konei ki te whenua haumako iti kei Aotearoa nei. Ina whakamahia ngā whenua kāore i haumako hei whakatupu kai, mātua rā ngā kai o te māra, ka iti ake te hua, ki te kore e whāia ngā tikanga taikaha hei whakataki i te whenua.

Te whakatakinga whenua me te oneone

Ko tētahi haurua o te whenua o Aotearoa, e pau ana ki ngā mahi ahuwhenua, ahungahere, hanga kāinga noho.

Ko te whakataki taikaha i te whenua kia ngoto te hua, he whai kia puta te hua rahi katoa i ia heketea o te whenua – kia mōrahi te hua o te miraka, te mīti, te rākau, te huarākau, te huawhenua, tētahi atu kai rānei. Engari he nui te tūpono ka hē, ka tītōhea te oneone i tēnei mahi.

Huri i te motu, i tētahi 80 ōrau o ngā wāhi e aroturukitia ai ngā oneone, kāore i eke ngā keonga mō tētahi, mō ētahi rānei o ngā waitohu i te kounga o te oneone. Tērā pea ka iti ake te mōmona o ngā oneone i aua wāhi, ā, me nui ake te tuku whakahaumako me te tuku wai e nui tonu ai te hua. Heoi anō, kāore i kitea he iaheke, iapiki rānei i te kounga o te oneone mai i te 1994 ki te 2018.

Ko te kaha pōareare o te oneone, i iti ake i te keonga i tētahi 65% o ngā pāmu miraka kau, i tētahi 48 ōrau o ngā pāmu mīti (kau, hipi, tia rānei), me tētahi 46 ōrau o ngā māra huarākau/waina i tīpakohia i waenga i te 2014 me te 2018. Ina iti te pōareare, tērā e houtete te tupu o te rākau, te otaota, te pātītī, mātua rā i ngā wāhi e haukū ana te whenua. Hei āpiti ki tērā, ka tāpuapua pea te wai ki te mata o te whenua, kātahi ka rere atu. Me te aha, ka ngāhorohoro pea te whenua, ka kawea atu ngā oneone o runga me ngā taiora ki ngā awa me ngā roto.

I hipa ake te nui o te pūtūtaewhetū Olsen (te pūtūtaewhetū e wātea ana i te oneone) i te keonga e tika ana i te 61 ōrau o ngā pāmu miraka kau me ngā wāhi whakatipu kai, me te 46 ōrau o ngā māra huarākau, waina i tīpakohia mai i te 2014 ki te 2018. I kitea hoki he iapiki i te nui o te pūtūtaewhetū i ngā wāhi whakatipu kai me ngā pāmu mīti i te 1996–2018. E tohu ana te pūtūtaewhetū Olsen nui kua kaha rawa pea te ruiruia atu o te whakahaumako pūtūtaewhetū.

Tērā tētahi rangahau o ngā papa pātītī, otaota mā te kararehe i Aotearoa, ko ētahi he wāhi tuku wai, ko ētahi karekau, ā, ko te mea i kitea, he iti noa ake te waro me te hauota kei ngā oneone i ngā mea i tukuna ai he wai, tēnā i ngā mea kāore i pērā. Kia nui ake te whenua tuku wai, ka nui ake pea te hauhā e riro atu ana ki te kōhauhau, ka nui ake hoki te hauota e rere atu ana i te oneone.

Ahakoa i te nuinga o ngā wāhi aroturuki, i tutuki te keonga mō te nui o te hauota i te nuinga o ngā oneone, he maha ngā awa kua kino i te nui rawa o te hauota i roto. Tērā pea kāore ngā waitohu i te kounga o te oneone i te whakaatu tūturu i ngā pānga o te whakamahi taikaha i te whenua ki te whānuitanga atu o te taiao. (Kei roto mai i tēnei ngā take e pā ana ki te whakamahinga o te hauota me ōna pānga ki te kounga o te wai māori.)

Ko te kounga o te oneone, e aro whāiti ana ki te whakamahinga o te oneone. Engari ko te hauora o te oneone, he ariā whānui ake, e arohia ai te tū roa o te oneone hei pūnaha hauropi e hāpai ana i te hauora o ngā tini a Tāne, tae atu anō ki te tangata. Me mārama ake tātou ki te hauora o te oneone, ngā tukanga pūnaha hauropi me ngā hononga i waenga i ngā tukanga taiao. Mā konei e takoto ai he oneone hauora mō ngā uri whakaheke.

Ko te whai kia pūmau, kia pai ake rānei te ora o te oneone me ētahi atu rawa tētahi āhuatanga nui o tā te Māori tiaki i te whenua. Ka kaha uia ngā pātai pēnei i te ‘he aha tā tātou hei tiaki i te oneone?’

He pūnaha hauropi te oneone. Māna e ora ai te moroiti, te tipu, te ngokingoki, te manu, te kararehe, me te tangata. Kia kino te oneone, ka hē tōna mauri, ōna hua, me te hauora anō o te tangata.

Ngā pānga ki te taiao nui ake

Ko te whenua te kaikōtui i ngā hanga katoa o te pūnaha tuatinitini e kīia nei ko te taiao. Nō reira, ko te āhua o tā tātou whakamahi i te whenua, e pāpā atu ana ki ngā tini taunekeneke i waenga i ngā roto, ngā awa, ngā moana, te hau takiwā, te āhuarangi, me ngā rauropi māori.

Kei te whakakorea tonutia te ngahere māori i ētahi rohe, tae atu ki Te Tai Poutini me Murihiku. Ko tōna 25 ōrau o te katoa o ngā whenua e kākahuria ana ki te rākau Māori i Aotearoa, kei ngā pāmu hipi, mīti kau. Ko tētahi 1 ōrau noa o ngā whenua e whakamahia ana mō te miraka kau e pērā ana. Ko tōna 3 ōrau noa o ngā ngahere māori i ngā pāmu hipi, mīti kau e rauhītia pūmautia ana ki te kawenata.

Ina ngoto ake ngā mahi ahuwhenua, ina toro haere ngā paenoho tāngata, tērā e nui ake te paruparu o ngā taiao wai māori, wai tai anō hoki.

Ina hoatu he whakahaumako hauota, he wai hamuti kararehe ki te oneone, ka nui ake te tūpono uru atu o te hauota ki te wai māori, ā, atu i reira ki ngā wainuku. Ka huihui hoki te pūtūtaewhetū ki te oneone ina rite tonu te hoatu. Ko te ara matua e uru ai tēnei ki te wai māori, ko te ngāhorohorotanga o ngā oneone e nui ana te pūtūtaewhetū o roto.

Nā te hauota me te pūtūtaewhetū, ko te pūkohu ngaruru i ngā awa me ngā roto, e iti ake ai te hāora i te wai mā ngā tipu me ngā ika.

Ka roa tonu pea e papī atu ana te hauota me ētahi atu taiora ki te wainuku. I ētahi wainuku kua whakatauhia te tawhito i runga i ētahi pūmotu i roto, ka kitea i kaha te piki o te hauota me ētahi atu matū ahuwheua o roto i muri i te 1955 – koia te wā i tīmata ai ngā mahi ahuwhenua ngoto.

I te 2018, e 53 ōrau o ngā tuhanga haurehu o Aotearoa, ā-rōrahi nei, he mewaro, he hauota-rua ōkai, ko te nuinga i takea mai i te ahuwhenua. Ko ngā tuhanga a ngā kararehe pāmu tētahi 86 ōrau o ngā tuhanga mewaro. I muri mai i ā te kararehe, ko te whakahaumako i ngā pāmu miraka kau te mea nui te whai wāhi ki ngā haurehu kati kōtuhi, koia tētahi 15 ōrau o ngā tapuwae waro o aua pāmu. Puta noa i ngā momo whakahaumako katoa, ko ngā mea tuku hauota ngā mea nui katoa te tuhanga.

Ka pāpā tahi te ngaromanga o te ngahere māori, te tāhawahawatia o te wai, me te āhuarangi, tētahi ki tētahi. Waihoki, he ngaunga tāpiripiri ō ēnei ki te taiao. Ka whaihua tonu te tahuri ki te ao Māori me te mātauranga Māori e mārama ake ai, e rongoātia ai ngā raru e pāpā nei ki ngā wāhi maha o te pūnaha taiao.

Te whenua me te āhuarangi hurihuri

Ko te āhuarangi hurihuri te wero nui e whakatatara nei i tō tātou nei whakatupuranga. Ā, e whakapaetia ana ka taikaha ake ōna pānga ā taihoa ake. Me te aha, tērā tonu ka tino rerekē te āhua o te ahuwhenua, ngā pūnaha hauropi māori, te pūhangaroto, me te hauora ā ngā tau kei te heke iho.

Mā te roa ake o te kaupeka whakatupu, me te piki o te paemahana, ka takoto pea he arawātea hou, engari ka kino tonu pea te ngau o te huarere inati (pērā i te tauraki) ki ngā hua o te ahuwhenua me te ahungahere.

I te nekehanga o ngā tauira āhuarangi, e whakapaetia ana ka rerekē anō hoki ngā tikanga whakataki. Ka tahuri pea ngā kaiwhakatupu waina ki ētahi momo kerepe kē, waihoki ngā kaipāmu kararehe, ka tahuri ki momo kē, ki kararehe kē rānei. Kua tīmata kē te tūhura me te whakatupu i ētahi momo karepe, momo pātītī ka ora tonu i te tauraki.

Ko ā tātou mahi ki te whakaiti i ngā haurehu kati kōtuhi me te urutau ki te āhuarangi hurihuri, kei te whakaawe anō pea i te whakamahinga o te whenua. Ko ētahi kōwhiringa, ko te whakaiti ake i te noho apiapi o te kau miraka, o te hipi me ētahi atu kararehe pāmu; ko te whai kia nui ake ngā hua e puta ana i ngā kararehe pāmu; ko te whakaiti ake i te whakahaumako; ko te whakaputa hipi ki te ao e iti ake ana ā rātou tuhanga haurehu kino.

Ka whai pānga anō ngā kaupapa-here whakamauru, urutau ki te āhuarangi hurihuri ki te āhua o te whakamahi o te whenua ā ngā rā e tū mai nei. I ētahi takiwā maha, kua waihanga mahere ngā kaunihera ā-rohe ki te whakaiti ake i ngā tuhanga haurehu kino, ki te whakataki hoki i ngā tūraru ka hua ake i te piki haere o te mata o te moana me te waipuke.

Mā te āhuarangi hurihuri ka kaha kē atu ngā tūraru ki ngā pūnaha māori me ngā pūnaha tangata, ka ara ake hoki he tūraru hou. Me tino whakamatara ka tika ngā kaiāki me te hiranga o tēnā, o tēnā.

Environmental indicators and datasets

Access the new and updated indicators for Our land 2021 on the Stats NZ website.

Access the datasets from Our land 2021 on the MfE DataService. Select 'Recently added' from the settings menu to access the datasets used in this report.

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