News and Views

Environmental data improvement key in Environment Aotearoa 2019 report

Environment Canterbury has welcomed the Environment Aotearoa 2019 synthesis report as a significant milestone in the work to understand the state of our natural environment and the effects of climate change across New Zealand.

“We recognise the huge effort that has gone into this report, led by MfE and StatsNZ, as well as the significant work from many agencies in collecting, curating and providing the data,” said Environment Canterbury’s Chief Scientist Dr Tim Davie.

“The report itself echoes what we have been saying for some time, that serious environmental issues such as the degradation of waterways or destruction of natural ecosystems, need to be reversed. We also recognise that environment issues are inter-dependant and we fully support the Government’s call to turn awareness into actions that will have the greatest impact.”

While the Government has done the work to assess the national state of our environment, much of the response will come from regional and unitary councils, particularly in dealing with the effects of farming intensification, working alongside the community.

“We also note the challenges in data systems, standards, and gaps in data noted in the report. Environment Canterbury is already investing in data system improvements, which will improve our decision making around how to deal with environmental issues.

“We fully support the report’s recommendations on how to make better use of our collective knowledge system and to build an enhanced environmental monitoring system across New Zealand.

“A key aspect to improving data networks and availability will be through the Regional Council supported EMaR programme – Environmental Monitoring and Reporting. We look forward to working with MfE, StatsNZ, other regional and unitary councils, as well as other agencies that contribute to data production and management.”

“We are not surprised with the information and conclusions in the report as much of the data in Environment Aotearoa 2019 comes from monitoring programmes run by regional and unitary councils, provided to StatsNZ, and modelled by NIWA.”

“We already have a very good understanding of the state of Canterbury’s natural environment, we monitor hundreds of rivers and lakes every month, which includes biochemical and faecal measurements, as well as assessments of ecosystem health. We also have programmes to monitor land use, soil quality, air quality, and other aspects.”

Environment Canterbury has taken a very tough line on nitrate contamination as well as moving to protect waterways from stock and other contaminants.

In 2012 Environment Canterbury introduced the toughest nitrate pollution rules in the country as part of the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan. For the first time this put a limit on nitrate pollution, alongside region-wide stock exclusion rules for waterways – a key tool needed to protect streams and rivers.

Since then the work has focused on the catchments most at risk – Selwyn Waihora, Hinds/Hekao, South Coastal Canterbury, the Upper Waitaki – to reduce nitrate and other pollution and improve freshwater quality and ecosystem health.

Most farmers in these areas now need a land-use consent to farm: this includes a Farm Environment Plan subject to an independent audit. There is also a renewed focus on compliance to stop environmental damage from bad practices.

“As a result, we are starting to see an improving trend over 10-years in freshwater quality, particularly around nitrogen and phosphorus, although there is still work needed to improve water clarity and reduce bacterial contamination.

“We expect that ecological measures, such as the macroinvertebrate community index, will take more time to see improvements because of the combined effects of water quality issues.”

For more information visit the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment website or contact Environment Canterbury media on 027 221 5259.

Source: Environment Canterbury

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