New Zealand a 'chainsmoking couch potato' when it comes to environment

New Zealand is "a chainsmoking couch potato" when it comes to the environment.

That's how Fish and Game summed up a grim report released by the Government today.

It says 90 percent of our sea birds and 76 percent of our freshwater fish are at risk of extinction.

Department of Conservation (DoC) says we have a biodiversity crisis on our hands, and we don't know the true scale of it because we don't know how many species we actually have.

We know of 11,000 native species, but the best estimates are that that's just 20 percent of the species that actually exist here.

Forest and Bird likened it to a lazy patient.

"Basically, the patient's a chainsmoking couch potato and he needs to change his ways," said Martin Taylor.

The Environment Aotearoa report is as comprehensive as it worrying.

"It's kind of grim reading; if you look at the whole state of the environment as one area, you've really got to be concerned," said secretary for the environment Vicky Robertson.

Nearly all urban waterways are unswimmable - as well as eight of ten that pass through pastoral land.

More than half of New Zealand's land cover has been modified and there are now more exotic plant species than native ones.

While stoats, possums and rats roam across 94 percent of the country.

"The collapse of biodiversity that we're experiencing with around 4000 species heading towards extinction, highest rate of any country in the word, that for me is the carrying call," said chief executive of Forest and Bird Kevin Hague.

"All New Zealanders care about the environment; it's now time to care for the environment," said Robertson.

Fish and Game is pointing the finger at our councils.

"This report is a performance review on our Regional Councils and how they've failed New Zealand for the last generation, they have a statutory obligation to ensure that the environment is protected for future generations and they've completely failed," said Taylor.

We are now the second-heaviest users of fresh water in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 5 trillion litres of that per year is consented to go to irrigation - enough to fill 2 million Olympic swimming pools.

Dairy cattle numbers are up 70 percent since 1994, while sheep and beef cattle numbers have fallen sharply.

"Forest and Bird has been pretty critical of Government, saying we're actually further behind now than when the Government took office," said Hague.

There's still hope, according to Robertson.

"We know when we focus our efforts we can make a difference; 26 species are coming back from extinctions - that's small but significant."

She is confident that, armed with the facts, Kiwis can make a change.