Commissioner critical of Govt environment report

Commissioner critical of Govt environment report

Parliament's environment watchdog says the Government's new reporting system for the health of the environment isn't quite up to scratch.

Last October, the Government issued its first Environment Aotearoa 2015 report -- put together by Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright has now had a chance to go over it and says it needs work to have any meaning.

She has made six recommendations for future reports, including the response to environmental problems, which the current report stops short of.

"In the end the point of reporting on the state of the environment is to improve the way we manage and protect it," Dr Wright said.

The report should also identify and explain environmental issues, including their causes and location, and contain conclusions about their significance.

The structure of the report made it hard to understand and almost impossible to say what caused an environmental problem, she said.

"A state of the environment report becomes much more useful to the public and decision-makers when it provides a sense of the relative significance of different environmental issues," Dr Wright said.

"The environment is so multi-faceted and complex that we cannot rely on the facts to speak for themselves."

Overall, Dr Wright said New Zealand's air quality was generally good in most places most of the time.

Water quality was very good in undeveloped parts of the country, but is poor in many catchments, mostly as a consequence of historic bush clearance on unstable soils and increasingly intensive farming.

Not much was known about the state of New Zealand's ocean.

"We do, however, know that climate change is by far the most worrying environmental issue."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the report is "scathing" against the National government.

"She describes how National is using spin to distract New Zealanders from the fact they do not protect the environment sufficiently."

Labour's David Parker says the country's land use intensity which is increasing pollution to rivers isn't under control.

"National's wadability, rather than swimability, minimum standard is part of the problem," he says.  

The Environment Aotearoa reports will be produced every three years.

NZN / Newshub.