New Zealand landscapes are famed the world over. But is the environment really as healthy as it looks from the outside? (Photo Credit: Getty)

Getty

New government report shows just how bad things have gotten in recent years.

When I first moved to New Zealand 2.5 years ago, I was struck by a few things. For one, the wider public seem to know – and care – a lot about the environment. The people I met could tell me the names of every tree and bird, and many seemed to spend their weekends exploring the great outdoors. Secondly, the grid here is incredibly ‘green’ – a huge proportion (81%) of NZ’s electricity is generated from renewable resources. Comparing that to the UK, which currently generates 33% of its power from renewables, and having lived in London for more than a decade without learning anything about the region’s native flora and fauna, it was easy to buy into the narrative that NZ was a clean, pristine, environmentally-friendly paradise.

But I started to notice other things, including an over-reliance on fossil-fuel vehicles. In urban areas, roads and car parks are consistently busy, and if you look around in peak-time traffic, you’ll usually be surrounded by sole-occupancy vehicles. While it’s true that an underinvestment in public transport has contributed to this, my impression is that the kiwi love of the car is partly cultural. Fit, able-bodied people regularly choose to drive very short journeys – I once waved to a neighbor as they got into their car, only to meet them 10 mins later on the beach, which I’d walked to.

My other major realization came later, and it was around the importance of farming to the NZ economy. Its sheep population (in Jan 2017, sheep outnumbered humans six to one) has been the butt of jokes for years, but it was only when I started looking into land cover statistics that I truly realized how much of the country is reserved for agriculture – in fact, it dwarfs all other land uses. I may not be an ecologist, but that stat certainly set my ecology / environment alarm bells ringing.

There’s a conflict between these two things – the perception that NZ’s environment is healthy and thriving, and the activities that are undertaken by humans to continuously shape (and damage) the landscape. And if the response to a new report, Environment Aotearoa 2019, is anything to go by, it seems that I’m not alone in worrying about this paradox.

Environment Aotearoa 2019 (EA2019) was released jointly by two government bodies – the Ministry for the Environment and StatsNZ – on 18th April2019 It follows on from a previous report (published in 2015), and aims to paint a picture of the overall state of NZ’s environment. As such, the report is extensive (you can download the PDF for free), and it has been compiled from data collected by environmental organizations over many years. If the 128-page version of the report feels a bit much, there is a top-level summary of it here, though it doesn’t quite cover everything. In addition, StatsNZ have released all of the data referred to in the report – on their site, you can find updated graphs and tables, as well as a huge collection of interactive maps that allow you to visualize the data.

EA2019 identifies nine priority areas, highlighting the impact of human activity on everything from biodiversity to water pollution. Rather than attempt to badly cover all nine, I thought I’d highlight some of the findings that are most relevant to this column – namely those related to urban land use, food production, and greenhouses gases.

First off is the fact that, despite what you might think, New Zealand’s population is overwhelmingly urban. Just over 86 % of us live in towns and cities. But NZ’s urban areas cover less than 1 % of the country’s total land area. Population growth has led to an expansion of cities in recent years, though, and while this might not seem like a problem – after all, there’s plenty of available land – the issue is that this expansion is happening on some of the country’s best, most versatile soils.

There’s also been a significant increase in the number of people moving out to the suburbs, on the search for more land to call their own. The combination of urban growth and land fragmentation has led to a loss of ‘high-class’ soil, pushing food producers out to less productive land, which requires more inputs (e.g. fertilizers).

And that brings us onto farming, and more particularly, the nitrogen crisis facing NZ farms. Nitrogen is not inherently evil, of course – it’s a vital nutrient, and makes up 78 % of the air we breathe. The problem is that we apply huge quantities of it to the soil, via fertilizers, to improve crop yield. In addition, animals like cows and sheep also pee all over farmland, increasing the nitrogen input further. When more nutrients are applied to the soil than plants can absorb, the excess enters waterways, and they become pollutants.

Since 1990, the amount of nitrogen applied to NZ soils has increased more than six-fold. There’s also been a shift in the type of farming that dominates the agricultural landscape. According to EA2019, pasture is now the biggest single type of land cover in New Zealand, covering nearly 40 % of the country (that’s in the region of 10.6 million hectares). On that land, we’re also seeing more dairy cows – the national herd increased by 70 % between 1994 and 2017, while numbers of sheep and beef cattle declined. This shift is important because cows produce more urine than sheep, and cow urine also contains a higher concentration of nitrogen. Cows are also heavier than sheep, so they tend to trample down vegetation, which allows even more nitrogen to run-off into nearby rivers and lakes.

In terms of urban pollutants, EA2019 largely focuses on air quality, mainly related to the health-harming particulate matter (PM) that I’ve covered before. In NZ, it mainly comes from two sources – home heating based on the burning of coal and wood, and road vehicles. In 2015, domestic home heating accounted for 25 % of the PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometers) and 33 % of the PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers) found in urban air.

Petrol and diesel-powered vehicles also produce a whole host of polluting gases, including carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. I’ve written about NZ’s car fleet previously – the country has the highest car ownership rates of any OECD country – but the main takeaway for me from this report is that between 1990 and 2013, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 42 %.

Auckland is NZ’s largest city, but it’s expanding onto some of the country’s most precious soils (Photo Credit: Getty)

Getty

These findings represent just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the other headline stats from EA2019 include:

  • At least 75 animal and plant species have become extinct since humans arrived in NZ. And in the past 15 years, the extinction risk has worsened for 86 species.
  • More than 70,000 hectares of native vegetation was lost between 1996 and 2012 through conversion to pasture, plantation forestry, and urban areas.
  • NZ’s water take per person is more than 2 million litres per year, the second highest in the OECD.
  • Since 1977, New Zealand’s glaciers are estimated to have lost around one quarter of their ice – that’s enough ice to fill Wellington harbor 12 times.

The report also points out that, layered over all of this is climate change. It will not only have an impact on all of the issues identified in EA2019, but it adds uncertainties to already complex systems, making it harder to plan for the future. So, all in all, EA2019 makes for bleak reading. Kevin Hague, the chief executive of leading conservation organization, Forest & Bird, summed it up pretty well when he said, “We’ve spent too many years in denial about how our actions – from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – are irreversibly harming our natural world. This report confirms things are very bad. We need an economy that nurtures and restores our environment, not one that trashes it.”

I’m not trying to say that NZ is all bad – it’s a wonderful place, and I love living here. But there’s no doubt that the mask is slipping on its environmentally-friendly reputation. If the government wants to avoid disaster, it’ll have to do much more than simply talk about it.

Disclaimer: Between December 2018 and March 2019, I was contracted by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to support the writing and editing of EA2019. MfE did not ask me to cover the report in this column. I’ve chosen to write about it in my personal capacity as a Forbes contributor because ( 1 ) Its relevant to my interests and those of my readers, and ( 2 ) I feel it is an important piece of research.

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(******** )New Zealand landscapes are famous the world over. However is the environment truly as healthy as it looks from the exterior? (Picture Credit: Getty)

Getty

Brand-new federal government report reveals simply how bad things have actually gotten in current years.

When I initially relocated to New Zealand 2.5 years earlier, I was struck by a couple of things. For one, the larger public appear to understand– and care– a lot about the environment. Individuals I fulfilled might inform me the names of every tree and bird, and lots of appeared to invest their weekends checking out the outdoors. Second of all, the grid here is extremely ‘green’– a substantial percentage (81%) of NZ’s electrical energy is produced from eco-friendly resources. Comparing that to the UK, which presently creates 33% of its power from renewables, and having actually resided in London for more than a years without finding out anything about the area’s native plants and animals, it was simple to purchase into the story that NZ was a tidy, beautiful, environmentally-friendly paradise.

However I began to see other things, consisting of an over-reliance on fossil-fuel automobiles. In city locations, roadways and parking area are regularly hectic, and if you browse in peak-time traffic, you’ll typically be surrounded by sole-occupancy automobiles. While it holds true that an underinvestment in public transportation has actually added to this, my impression is that the kiwi love of the cars and truck is partially cultural. Fit, able-bodied individuals routinely pick to drive really brief journeys– I as soon as waved to a next-door neighbor as they entered into their cars and truck, just to fulfill them 10 minutes in the future the beach, which I ‘d strolled to.

My other significant awareness came later on, and it was around the significance of farming to the NZ economy. Its sheep population (in Jan 2017, sheep surpassed human beings 6 to one) has actually been the butt of jokes for many years, however it was just when I began checking out land cover stats that I really recognized just how much of the nation is scheduled for farming– in truth, it overshadows all other land usages. I might not be an ecologist, however that stat definitely set my ecology/ environment alarm bells calling.

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There’s a dispute in between these 2 things– the understanding that NZ’s environment is healthy and growing, and the activities that are carried out by human beings to constantly form (and damage) the landscape. And if the reaction to a brand-new report, Environment Aotearoa 2019, is anything to pass, it appears that I’m not alone in fretting about this paradox.

Environment Aotearoa 2019 ( EA2019) was launched collectively by 2 federal government bodies– the Ministry for the Environment and StatsNZ— on 18 th April2019 It follows on from a previous report (released in 2015), and intends to paint an image of the general state of NZ’s environment. As such, the report is comprehensive (you can download the PDF totally free), and it has actually been put together from information gathered by ecological companies over several years. If the 128- page variation of the report feels a bit much, there is a high-level summary of it here, though it does not rather cover whatever. In addition, StatsNZ have actually launched all of the information described in the report– on their website, you can discover upgraded charts and tables, along with a substantial collection of interactive maps that enable you to imagine the information.

EA2019(******************** )determines 9 top priority locations, highlighting the effect of human activity on whatever from biodiversity to water contamination. Instead of effort to severely cover all 9, I believed I ‘d highlight a few of the findings that are most pertinent to this column– specifically those associated to city land usage, food production, and greenhouses gases

To Begin With is the truth that, in spite of what you may believe, New Zealand’s population is extremely city. Simply over 86 % people reside in towns and cities. However NZ’s city locations cover less than 1 % of the nation’s overall acreage. Population development has actually resulted in a growth of cities in the last few years, however, and while this may not appear like an issue– after all, there’s lots of offered land– the concern is that this growth is taking place on a few of the nation’s finest, most flexible soils.

There’s likewise been a substantial boost in the variety of individuals leaving to the suburban areas, on the look for more land to call their own. The mix of city development and land fragmentation has actually resulted in a loss of ‘elite’ soil, pressing food manufacturers out to less efficient land, which needs more inputs (e.g. fertilizers).

Which brings us onto farming, and more especially, the nitrogen crisis dealing with NZ farms. Nitrogen is not naturally wicked, naturally– it’s an essential nutrient, and comprises 78 % of the air we breathe. The issue is that we use big amounts of it to the soil, by means of fertilizers, to enhance crop yield. In addition, animals like cows and sheep likewise pee all over farmland, increasing the nitrogen input even more. When more nutrients are used to the soil than plants can soak up, the excess gets in waterways, and they end up being toxins.

Considering That 1990, the quantity of nitrogen used to NZ soils has actually increased more than six-fold. There’s likewise been a shift in the kind of farming that controls the farming landscape. According to EA2019, pasture is now the greatest single kind of land cover in New Zealand, covering almost 40 % of the nation (that remains in the area of 10.6 million hectares). On that land, we’re likewise seeing more dairy cows– the nationwide herd increased by 70 % in between 1994 and 2017, while varieties of sheep and beef livestock decreased. This shift is essential due to the fact that cows produce more urine than sheep, and cow urine likewise includes a greater concentration of nitrogen. Cows are likewise much heavier than sheep, so they tend to run over down plant life, which permits a lot more nitrogen to run-off into close-by rivers and lakes.

In regards to city toxins, EA2019 mainly concentrates on air quality, primarily associated to the health-harming particle matter (PM) that I have actually covered prior to In NZ, it primarily originates from 2 sources– house heating based upon the burning of coal and wood, and roadway automobiles. In 2015, domestic house heating represented 25 % of the PM10(particles smaller sized than 10 micrometers) and 33 % of the PM2.5 (particles smaller sized than 2.5 micrometers) discovered in city air.

Fuel and diesel-powered automobiles likewise produce an entire host of contaminating gases, consisting of co2 and nitrogen oxides. I have actually discussed NZ’s cars and truck fleet formerly— the nation has the greatest cars and truck ownership rates of any OECD nation– however the primary takeaway for me from this report is that in between 1990 and 2013, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 42 %.

Auckland is NZ’s biggest city, however it’s broadening onto a few of the nation’s most valuable soils (Picture Credit: Getty)

Getty

These findings represent simply the suggestion of the iceberg. A few of the other heading statistics from EA2019 consist of:

  • A minimum of 75 animal and plant types have actually ended up being extinct given that human beings gotten here in NZ. And in the past 15 years, the termination threat has actually aggravated for 86 types.
  • More than 70,000 hectares of native plant life was lost in between 1996 and 2012 through conversion to pasture, plantation forestry, and city locations.
  • NZ’s water take per individual is more than 2 million litres each year, the 2nd greatest in the OECD.
  • Considering That 1977, New Zealand’s glaciers are approximated to have actually lost around one quarter of their ice– that suffices ice to fill Wellington harbor 12 times.

The report likewise mentions that, layered over all of this is environment modification. It will not just have an influence on all of the concerns recognized in EA2019, however it includes unpredictabilities to currently complicated systems, making it more difficult to prepare for the future. So, all in all, EA2019 produces bleak reading. Kevin Hague, the president of leading preservation company, Forest & Bird, summed it up quite well when he stated, ” We have actually invested a lot of years in rejection about how our actions– from widespread dairy conversions to devastating seabed trawling– are irreversibly damaging our natural world. This report validates things are really bad. We require an economy that supports and restores our environment, not one that trashes it.”

I’m not attempting to state that NZ is all bad– it’s a fantastic location, and I enjoy living here. However there’s no doubt that the mask is slipping on its environmentally-friendly track record. If the federal government wishes to prevent catastrophe, it’ll need to do far more than merely discuss it.

Disclaimer: In Between December 2018 and March 2019, I was contracted by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to support the writing and modifying of EA2019 MfE did not ask me to cover the report in this column. I have actually selected to blog about it in my individual capability as a Forbes factor due to the fact that (1) Its pertinent to my interests and those of my readers, and (2) I feel it is a crucial piece of research study.

” readability =”166
23970206523″ >

.

New Zealand landscapes are famous the world over. However is the environment truly as healthy as it looks from the exterior? (Picture Credit: Getty)

Getty

.

.

Brand-new federal government report reveals simply how bad things have actually gotten in current years.

When I initially relocated to New Zealand 2.5 years earlier, I was struck by a couple of things. For one, the larger public appear to understand– and care– a lot about the environment. Individuals I fulfilled might inform me the names of every tree and bird, and lots of appeared to invest their weekends checking out the outdoors. Second of all, the grid here is extremely ‘green’– a substantial percentage (81 %) of NZ’s electrical energy is produced from eco-friendly resources. Comparing that to the UK, which presently creates 33 % of its power from renewables, and having actually resided in London for more than a years without finding out anything about the area’s native plants and animals, it was simple to purchase into the story that NZ was a tidy, beautiful, environmentally-friendly paradise.

However I began to see other things, consisting of an over-reliance on fossil-fuel automobiles. In city locations, roadways and parking area are regularly hectic, and if you browse in peak-time traffic, you’ll typically be surrounded by sole-occupancy automobiles. While it holds true that an underinvestment in public transportation has actually added to this, my impression is that the kiwi love of the cars and truck is partially cultural. Fit, able-bodied individuals routinely pick to drive really brief journeys– I as soon as waved to a next-door neighbor as they entered into their cars and truck, just to fulfill them 10 minutes in the future the beach, which I ‘d strolled to.

My other significant awareness came later on, and it was around the significance of farming to the NZ economy. Its sheep population (in Jan 2017, sheep surpassed human beings 6 to one ) has actually been the butt of jokes for many years, however it was just when I began checking out land cover stats that I really recognized just how much of the nation is scheduled for farming– in truth, it overshadows all other land usages. I might not be an ecologist, however that stat definitely set my ecology/ environment alarm bells calling.

There’s a dispute in between these 2 things– the understanding that NZ’s environment is healthy and growing, and the activities that are carried out by human beings to constantly form (and damage) the landscape. And if the reaction to a brand-new report, Environment Aotearoa 2019, is anything to pass, it appears that I’m not alone in fretting about this paradox.

Environment Aotearoa 2019 ( EA 2019 ) was launched collectively by 2 federal government bodies– the Ministry for the Environment and StatsNZ — on 18 th April2019 It follows on from a previous report (released in 2015), and intends to paint an image of the general state of NZ’s environment. As such, the report is comprehensive (you can download the PDF totally free ), and it has actually been put together from information gathered by ecological companies over several years. If the 128 – page variation of the report feels a bit much, there is a high-level summary of it here , though it does not rather cover whatever. In addition, StatsNZ have actually launched all of the information described in the report– on their website , you can discover upgraded charts and tables, along with a substantial collection of interactive maps that enable you to imagine the information.

EA 2019 determines 9 top priority locations, highlighting the effect of human activity on whatever from biodiversity to water contamination. Instead of effort to severely cover all 9, I believed I ‘d highlight a few of the findings that are most pertinent to this column– specifically those associated to city land usage, food production, and greenhouses gases

.

To Begin With is the truth that, in spite of what you may believe, New Zealand’s population is extremely city. Simply over 86 % people reside in towns and cities. However NZ’s city locations cover less than 1 % of the nation’s overall acreage. Population development has actually resulted in a growth of cities in the last few years, however, and while this may not appear like an issue– after all, there’s lots of offered land– the concern is that this growth is taking place on a few of the nation’s finest, most flexible soils.

There’s likewise been a substantial boost in the variety of individuals leaving to the suburban areas, on the look for more land to call their own. The mix of city development and land fragmentation has actually resulted in a loss of ‘elite’ soil, pressing food manufacturers out to less efficient land, which needs more inputs (e.g. fertilizers).

Which brings us onto farming, and more especially, the nitrogen crisis dealing with NZ farms. Nitrogen is not naturally wicked, naturally– it’s an essential nutrient, and comprises 78 % of the air we breathe. The issue is that we use big amounts of it to the soil, by means of fertilizers, to enhance crop yield. In addition, animals like cows and sheep likewise pee all over farmland, increasing the nitrogen input even more. When more nutrients are used to the soil than plants can soak up, the excess gets in waterways, and they end up being toxins.

Considering That 1990, the quantity of nitrogen used to NZ soils has actually increased more than six-fold. There’s likewise been a shift in the kind of farming that controls the farming landscape. According to EA 2019 , pasture is now the greatest single kind of land cover in New Zealand, covering almost 40 % of the nation (that remains in the area of 10.6 million hectares). On that land, we’re likewise seeing more dairy cows– the nationwide herd increased by 70 % in between 1994 and 2017, while varieties of sheep and beef livestock decreased. This shift is essential due to the fact that cows produce more urine than sheep, and cow urine likewise includes a greater concentration of nitrogen. Cows are likewise much heavier than sheep, so they tend to run over down plant life, which permits a lot more nitrogen to run-off into close-by rivers and lakes.

In regards to city toxins, EA 2019 mainly concentrates on air quality, primarily associated to the health-harming particle matter (PM) that I have actually covered prior to In NZ, it primarily originates from 2 sources– house heating based upon the burning of coal and wood, and roadway automobiles. In 2015, domestic house heating represented 25 % of the PM 10 (particles smaller sized than 10 micrometers) and 33 % of the PM2.5 (particles smaller sized than 2.5 micrometers) discovered in city air.

Fuel and diesel-powered automobiles likewise produce an entire host of contaminating gases, consisting of co2 and nitrogen oxides. I have actually discussed NZ’s cars and truck fleet formerly — the nation has the greatest cars and truck ownership rates of any OECD nation– however the primary takeaway for me from this report is that in between 1990 and 2013, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 42 %.

.

.

Auckland is NZ’s biggest city, however it’s broadening onto a few of the nation’s most valuable soils (Picture Credit: Getty)

Getty

.

.

These findings represent simply the suggestion of the iceberg. A few of the other heading statistics from EA 2019 consist of:

    .

  • A minimum of 75 animal and plant types have actually ended up being extinct given that human beings gotten here in NZ. And in the past 15 years, the termination threat has actually aggravated for 86 types.
  • More than 70, 000 hectares of native plant life was lost in between 1996 and 2012 through conversion to pasture, plantation forestry, and city locations.
  • NZ’s water take per individual is more than 2 million litres each year, the 2nd greatest in the OECD.
  • Considering That 1977, New Zealand’s glaciers are approximated to have actually lost around one quarter of their ice– that suffices ice to fill Wellington harbor 12 times.

.

The report likewise mentions that, layered over all of this is environment modification. It will not just have an influence on all of the concerns recognized in EA 2019 , however it includes unpredictabilities to currently complicated systems, making it more difficult to prepare for the future. So, all in all, EA 2019 produces bleak reading. Kevin Hague, the president of leading preservation company, Forest & Bird, summed it up quite well when he stated, “We have actually invested a lot of years in rejection about how our actions– from widespread dairy conversions to devastating seabed trawling– are irreversibly damaging our natural world. This report validates things are really bad. We require an economy that supports and restores our environment, not one that trashes it.”

I’m not attempting to state that NZ is all bad– it’s a fantastic location, and I enjoy living here. However there’s no doubt that the mask is slipping on its environmentally-friendly track record. If the federal government wishes to prevent catastrophe, it’ll need to do far more than merely discuss it.

Disclaimer: In Between December 2018 and March 2019, I was contracted by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to support the writing and modifying of EA2019 MfE did not ask me to cover the report in this column. I have actually selected to blog about it in my individual capability as a Forbes factor due to the fact that (1) Its pertinent to my interests and those of my readers, and (2) I feel it is a crucial piece of research study.

.