Environment Aotearoa 2019 – our state of the environment report

3 May 2019

Background to this report (extracted from the report)

This report is different to the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ’s regular six-monthly reports that cycle air, freshwater, marine, atmosphere and climate, and land domains. It is a synthesis report – bringing together all the domain reports to help us step inside and view our environment as a whole, in all its complexity.

The Environmental Reporting Act of 2015 (the Act) requires the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician to produce such a synthesis state of the environment report every three years. Its purpose is to present ‘a diagnosis of the health of our environment’ to enable us as a nation, as iwi, as whānau, as communities, sectors, and individuals to understand the things that affect, or potentially affect the health of our environment. The last full report was Environment Aotearoa 2015 (before the Act), and before that versions in 2007 and 1997.

So while not suggesting responses (which are out of scope under the legislation), Environment Aotearoa 2019 provides evidence to enable an open and honest conversation about what we have, what we are at risk of losing, and where we can make changes.

The data used in Environment Aotearoa 2019 is drawn from the most recent domain reports (Our marine environment 2016, Our fresh water 2017, Our atmosphere and climate 2017, Our land 2018, and Our air 2018). The evidence base for this report is drawn from a set of environmental indicator web pages that are available on the Stats NZ website. Of the environmental indicators used in this report, 18 are new or have been updated since they were last used in a domain report, as new data has become available. (See the Environmental indicators section for links to all new and existing indicators referred to in this report.)

To provide the best picture in this report, including of emerging concerns, the report also draws on a body of evidence, such as government reports and peer-reviewed science papers. While the report tells a national story, it acknowledges important regional variations where possible.

As per the Act, state, pressure, and impact are used to report on the environment. The logic of the framework is that pressures cause changes to the state of the environment, and these changes have impacts. Impacts to ecological integrity, public health, economy, te ao Māori, culture, and recreation are described, as recommended under the Act.

The timeframes used throughout the report are largely dictated by the data that is available. Where possible, data is used to highlight significant periods of change. The time before humans arrived is sometimes used as a benchmark when the concept of ‘departure from natural conditions’ is discussed, to help characterise the significance of change.

In this report we have used the term ‘farming’ to refer to pastoral farming (including dairy, beef, sheep, and other livestock), horticulture, and arable cropping. When quoting from the body of evidence, we have used the term ‘agriculture’ to describe the same activities, where it is a direct quote from the source document.

Although the report does not specifically address uncertainty in measurements or conclusions in most instances, it acknowledges that it is present in all data and analysis. Where there is enough uncertainty to significantly impact the understanding of an issue it is highlighted as a knowledge gap.

This report has three main parts:

  • ‘About Environment Aotearoa 2019’ helps to orient us and explain our environment.
  • The second part ‘Themes and issues’ uses five themes to present nine priority environmental issues.
  • The last part ‘Towards a better understanding of our environment’ sets out the challenges we must overcome so future decisions about

View the document here.