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Environment report highlights serious land issues

Environment report highlights serious land issues

Environment report highlights serious land issues

Thursday 3 May, 2018

A new comprehensive report on the state of land in New Zealand has been published by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ.  Our Land 2018 is the first land specific report produced under the Environmental Reporting Act 2015.  The report provides a clear picture of the current state of the environment and highlights the impact of urban sprawl, and issues with biodiversity, and soil erosion and quality.

Summary of main findings:

  • 192 million tonnes of soil are lost every year from erosion and intensive agriculture – 44 percent of this is from pasture land.
  • 44 percent of sites tested had low macroporosity levels (i.e. the soil is likely to be compacted).
  • Nearly 83 percent of our native birds, bats, reptiles, and frogs are classified as threatened or at risk of extinction (between 2010 and 2016).
  • 20 species of birds improved their conservation status (between 2012 and 2016).
  • As well as loss of native vegetation across the country, coastal and lowland habitats continued to reduce.

The report also highlights the significant shifts in land use in the last two decades with a:

  • 10 percent increase in the total size of our towns and cities (between 1996 and 2012).
  • 42 percent increase in the area of land used for dairy, and a 20 percent decrease in area used for sheep and beef (between 2002 and 2016).
  • Shift in the past 15 years to higher numbers of animals farmed per hectare, especially in dairy.
  • Net loss of 71,000 hectares of native land cover (between 1996 and 2012).
  • 7 percent decrease in total area of land in agricultural production (between 2002 and 2012).

The take home message for local authorities is that land use decisions have had a huge impact on the environment, in particular on water quality, the marine environment, and the volume of greenhouse gas emissions.  The Minister for the Environment, Hon David Parker, states that the report confirms the need for action to improve land management.  Local authorities will play a key role in this effort.  

The Minister has directed officials to start preparing a National Policy Statement for Versatile Land and High-Class Soils.  The Minister has also asked officials to begin working on a more comprehensive freshwater national policy statement to address concerns about sediment, wetlands and estuaries.  We will provide updates on these policy developments in future editions of the Legal Brief.

To view the environmental report, please click here.

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