Environment 2010 Strategy
Nine serious environmental issues need to be dealt with if New Zealand is to justify its claim to be a "clean green" country.
These issues and the goals the Government wants to achieve, are outlined in the Environment 2010 Strategy released in October 1994.
New Zealand's Highest Priority Environmental Issues
1. Protecting Indigenous Habitats and Biological DiversityIssues and Examples
90 percent of our wetlands have been drained or degraded; lowland forest areas have been reduced to 15 percent of their pre-Maori extent; only 10 percent of the tall tussock grassland that existed in 1840 still remains.
Half of our endemic bird species have become extinct since people first came to New Zealand. About 500 species of animals and plants are now threatened.
Goal To protect indigenous habitats and to maintain biological diversity, by protecting representative examples of all indigenous ecosystems and by maintaining and enhancing the net total area of New Zealand's remaining indigenous forests and enhancing the quality of other remaining indigenous vegetation.
2. Managing Pests, Weeds and DiseasesIssues and Examples
Pests, weeds and plant and animal diseases damage the New Zealand environment and economy. The costs of prevention, control and lost production are likely to be in the billions of dollars.
The possum population is around 70 million. They eat around 21,000 tonnes of vegetation every 24 hours, causing serious damage to canopies of indigenous species. Government expenditure on possum and Tb control is approximately $30m per year.
Except in cases where weeds of limited distribution can be removed, and eradication of wild animals is being achieved, it is generally neither practical nor economic to attempt to eliminate existing pests, weeds and diseases. They must be managed in ways that balance the benefits and costs to society.
To reduce risks posed by pests, weeds and diseases to ecosystems, human health and economic production to levels consistent with New ZealandOs objectives for biodiversity and for the biosecurity of its agriculture and forestry industries.
3. Managing Pollution, Waste and Hazardous SubstancesIssues and Examples
New Zealand produces a higher rate of municipal waste - two thirds of a tonne per person each year - than most other developed countries.
Industry is a major waste producer, estimated at 300,000 tonnes each year.
Injuries to people and property resulting from the misuse of hazardous substances lead to higher insurance costs, estimated by the NZ Insurance Council to be $15-25m a year.
To ensure good environmental, social and economic outcomes, we need to manage waste, hazardous substances and pollution in an integrated way. Any actions should be firmly based on an assessment of environmental risk as well as the costs and benefits.
To manage pollution and waste, and thereby reduce risks to environmental quality and public health to levels that are widely agreed as being socially acceptable. To manage hazardous substances to reduce risk to the environment, people and the economy, and thereby enhance net national benefit from the use of such substances.
4. Managing Land ResourcesIssues and Examples
Agricultural, forestry and horticultural products make up 69 percent of total exports, worth over $13 billion a year. Our reputation for "quality products from a quality environment" depends on environmentally sustainable land use practices.
Land degradation, weeds and pests are serious issues for many areas of New Zealand. Between 1986 and 1990, natural disasters and adverse climatic events cost the Government more than $175 million in direct assistance to primary producers.
The estimated loss of soil through erosion and transport by rivers to the sea is estimated to be 400 million tonnes a year.
Sustainable land management in rural areas is threatened mainly by farming practices, while in urban areas, the threats come from poor landscape design or bad subdivision practice.
To maintain and enhance soil quality and to secure viable land use options and long term productivity by preventing irreversible land degradation.
5. Managing New Zealand's Water ResourcesIssues and Examples
New Zealand's agricultural stock generates faecal waste equivalent to a population of 150 million people.
Achieving high quality fresh and coastal waters will come at a cost. To provide secondary treatment schemes for all urban communities around our coasts could cost an estimated $1 billion over the next decade.
Significant risks to water quality and quantity include unsustainable land practices, inefficient or inappropriate uses of water, and changes to natural river and lake systems from further hydroelectric development.
To manage the quality and quantity of water so that it can meet the current and future needs of ecological systems, communities (including Maori), agriculture and industry by:
- ensuring surface freshwaters and coastal waters are of a quality suitable to meet national and community needs for swimming, fishing and shellfish gathering, and that aquatic life is not significantly affected by discharges;
- preventing degradation of quality and flow of identified water resources of national importance to New Zealanders for recreational, scenic, scientific or cultural reasons; and
- retaining sufficient water in water bodies to meet the community's in-stream recreational and cultural needs, and ecological and other values.
6. Sustainable FisheriesIssues and Examples
Our fishing industry is export oriented. In recent years the value of fish exports - $1.2 billion in 1993 - has grown much more ] than the volume of fish exports.
Fisheries policy supports a long term future for the industry by setting sustainable catch limits and providing secure harvesting rights. This provides a framework that allows our fishing industry to be both competitive and sustainable.
To conserve and manage New Zealand's fisheries for the benefit of all New Zealanders by providing for sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources, including commercial, recreational and Maori customary take.
7. Managing the Environmental Impacts of Energy ServicesIssues and Examples
New Zealand is reasonably well endowed with energy resources but there are challenges ahead if we are to provide future energy services in a sustainable manner.
The Maui gas field will be depleted early next century. New electricity generation stations will be needed by 2000 if current consumption patterns continue. Decisions on energy must also take account of New Zealand's commitment to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide.
To reduce the impact of the transport sector, it will be necessary to ensure that environmental effects are consistently incorporated in the analysis of transport investment options. Urban planning should provide for environmentally friendly transport options such as public transport, cycling and walking.
To manage sustainably the environmental impacts of energy production and use.
8. Responding to the Risk of Climate ChangeIssues and Examples
Gases released into the atmosphere are enhancing the natural greenhouse effect at a rate that could extensively damage our biophysical, economic and social systems.Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and methane - two of New Zealand's major greenhouse gases - have been growing at unprecedented rates and will continue to do so in the near future.
To help stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to reduce risk from global climate change, by meeting New Zealand's commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- To return net emissions of carbon dioxide to no more than their 1990 levels by the year 2000 (but aim for a reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions to 20 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2000 if this is cost-effective and will not harm our trade) and to reduce them further by the year 2010; and
- To reduce net emissions of other greenhouse gases by the year 2000 where possible and maintain them at those levels thereafter.
9. Restoring the Ozone LayerIssues and Examples
Damage to the ozone layer is expected to get worse until at least 2000 as the result of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) already released into the atmosphere.
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are rapidly replacing CFCs in manu uses. They too deplete ozone, but they do not remain in the atmosphere for such a long time as CFCs.
Even with full international co-operation in phasing out the use of ozone-depleting substances, full recovery of the ozone layer is not expected until at least the middle of the next century.
To help constrain peak levels of ozone destruction and to help achieve the full recovery of the ozone layer, by phasing out imports of ozone-depleting substances at rates no less than those agreed internationally and by limiting emissions of those substances that are imported.
For more information, contact:
Public Affairs Unit,
Ministry for the Environment,
P O Box 10362, Wellington.
Ph (04) 473-4090.
Fax: (04) 471-0195