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Major report finds New Zealand’s environment is in serious trouble

Major report finds New Zealand’s environment is in serious trouble

Major report finds New Zealand’s environment is in serious trouble

New Zealand’s environment is in a precarious state and facing an overwhelming number of threats, according to a new government report.

Environment Aotearoa 2019, a major report released today, provides the first snapshot since 2015 of New Zealand’s environment across five “domains” – air, climate, freshwater, land and ocean.

The report is jointly produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, and says that the way New Zealanders live and make a living is having a serious impact on the environment, and the benefits New Zealanders get from being in nature, though not measured or quantified, could be lost.

It found that New Zealand is now considered one of the most invaded countries in the world, with 75 animal and plant species having gone extinct since human settlement. The once-vibrant bird life has fared particularly badly, with 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds threatened with or at risk of extinction.

Introduced plant species now out number natives in New Zealand, and similarly, stoats, possums and rats were present on more than 94 percent of land in 2014.

The report showed that when it came to the environment’s overall health, “things are very bad,” Forest & Bird’s chief executive, Kevin Hague told Stuff.

“We’ve spent too many years in denial about how our actions – from rampant dairy conversions to destructive sea bed trawling – are irreversibly harming our natural world,” he said.

“As a nation, we need to make a bold plan to protect and restore nature now.”

Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s rare ecosystems are under threat of collapse.

“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” Hague said. “Four thousand of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.”

The report will be presented to policy makers to inform their decision making.

The nine priority issues the reports identifies are:

  • Native plants, animals and ecosystems that are under threat.
  • Changes to the vegetation on the country’s land are degrading the soil and water. 
  • Urban growth is reducing versatile land and native biodiversity.
  • Waterways are polluted in farming areas.
  • The environment is polluted in urban areas.
  • Taking water changes flows which affects our freshwater ecosystems.
  • The way we fish is affecting the health of New Zealand’s ocean environment.
  • New Zealand has high greenhouse gas emissions per person.
  • Climate change is already affecting New Zealand.

“If we want to protect the things we value, now and for future generations, we need to focus our attention on the choices we can make from here,” said Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson.

For a summary of the report, click here.

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