Government taking action to reverse environmental decline

Climate Change Environment

The Environment Aotearoa 2022 report released today shows the Government’s plan to turn around decades of environmental decline and make New Zealand carbon-neutral is more urgent than ever, Environment Minister David Parker said.

“Our environment is at the heart of who we are as a country. It sustains our economy and is core to our identity as a people, but for too long we haven’t protected it and this report highlights the urgency of turning around the decline,” David Parker said.

“While most of the data in this report pre-dates actions we have taken to reverse decades of environmental decline, it nevertheless underscores the necessity of our plans to clean up our environment for current and future generations.   

“The Government has work underway across water, climate, biodiversity and more that directly addresses many of the issues raised in today’s report.”

In the most significant change to the management of freshwater since the 1991 Resource Management Act, the Government’s Essential Freshwater reform package was put in place to address the degradation of the country’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and estuaries.

“Having swimmable and drinkable water is a birth right of every New Zealander, that the Government is working to restore,” David Parker said.

“We are focused on implementing real change as quickly as practicable. The freshwater reforms aim to make material improvements to water quality within five years and to restore our waterways to health within a generation.”

The Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 sets minimum national bottom lines across key measures of freshwater health.  It lays out the pathway to restore our waterways in both urban and rural areas. Councils have until the end of 2024 to notify regional plans that implement the NPS-FM. 

The Jobs for Nature programme, which aims to boost nature-based jobs, training and environmental benefits while accelerating COVID-19 recovery, is making a strong impact.

“With more than 7,000 jobs created and more than 380 projects funded, progress so far is pleasing and includes over four million plants going into the ground and over 1,300 hectares of freshwater areas being restored,” David Parker said.

“Through the creation of nature-based jobs we are creating enduring benefits for our freshwater and biodiversity, mitigating the impact of climate change, and protecting cultural values, like gathering kai.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the report emphasises the critical need for urgent climate action. 

“We need to see bold, enduring action to cut emissions right across Aotearoa. The actions taken by this Government have changed the trajectory of our emissions, but there is much more work to be done.

“New Zealand’s emissions reduction plan, to be released next month, will provide a comprehensive suite of actions and initiatives to cut emissions across every part of Government and every sector of the economy. It will put Aotearoa on a pathway to net-zero.

“The report casts the impacts of climate change into sharp relief. Our glaciers are retreating, and areas of our coast are increasingly subject to rising sea-levels. New Zealand’s response to the climate impacts we cannot avoid will be addressed in our first National Adaptation Plan – a draft plan will be released for feedback soon.

“A collective commitment to change is the only way we can build a low-carbon, equitable future, and to ensure the wellbeing of all New Zealanders and our environment for generations to come,” James Shaw said.

Among the many serious concerns identified in the report is the fact that our rare ecosystems and indigenous species are under threat, including 94 percent of reptiles and nearly three-quarters of terrestrial birds at risk of becoming extinct.

“The report paints a picture of a stark reality in which the time to take action on our environment and make sustainable long-term decisions is now – before irreversible damage is inflicted,” David Parker said. 

“This is the time to act, and we know what needs to be done. The Government is committed to leading the all-of-society response required.”