Environmental report a start – Govt

  • 22/10/2015
Maggie Barry (Simon Wong/3 News)
Maggie Barry (Simon Wong/3 News)

The Government says a new report card on the environment has at least set a benchmark, but conservation groups claim it shows action is needed.

The Environment Aotearoa 2015 report – put together by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment – has an area of concern including biodiversity and risks of extinction to indigenous species.

The report found 27 percent of New Zealand marine mammal species were threatened and 35 percent of the country's unique bird species were also under threat of extinction.

Conservation group Forest and Bird said the report showed Government needed to step up its efforts.

"New Zealand already has some good environmental laws like the RMA and the Conservation Act, but we have a serious shortage of authorities who do a good job of implementing and enforcing those law," campaigns manager Kevin Hackwell said.

He said the report showed there was a serious problem with possums, rats and stoats which needed to be addressed, along with concerns about overfishing of stocks.

But Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said the report at least provided a starting point for policy.

"You can't manage what you can't measure, and this report provides us with statistics of ongoing usefulness which will underpin future decision-making," she said.

She acknowledged the concerns about pest problems and biodiversity, but said the department was working on a wide series of programs to curb wildlife loss.

"DOC now manages more than 500 different types of ecosystems, more than ever before, and works with more than 400 threatened species, more than at any time previously," she said.

But Environmental Defence Society analyst Marie Brown said the real test for the value of the research was now how the Government responded.

"Ample justification in the figures exists for strong and effective environmental bottom lines," she said.

"For much of our natural heritage, there's little time to waste and mandatory environmental reporting has the potential to provide a strong platform to prompt necessary action.

"It would seem that there are many useful nuggets of information that should prompt policy innovation."

The report, the first of its kind, took two years to produce and used data from councils and government agencies such as Niwa and the New Zealand Transport Agency.