Four investigations are currently under way, on the topics of sea level rise, marine protected areas, the emissions trading scheme, and our icon species the kiwi. Three update reports are also being prepared.
Sea level rise, a major impact of climate change on New Zealand, is a topic of ongoing investigation. Councils are required under law to prepare for the increasing risk of flooding and erosion, but already some initiatives have caused conflict with coastal communities. A first report, released in 2014, presented the general science of sea level rise. A second report is being prepared that looks more closely at how a rising sea interacts with local coastal characteristics, and what this may mean for property and infrastructure in New Zealand.
Marine protected areas are a second topic being investigated. Identifying and protecting certain areas is one approach to conserving and sustainably managing New Zealand’s very diverse, precious and economically valuable marine environment. A key challenge is managing marine resources in the face of limited scientific information. Current marine conservation laws are dated, and an attempt to bring the Marine Reserves Act up to date has so far been unsuccessful. However, the Government is currently considering reform in this area.
The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is New Zealand’s main response to climate change and the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The ETS has been law since 2008, and is to be reviewed for the second time at the end of this year. Ahead of this, the Commissioner is investigating the merits of an “all-gases, all-sectors” Emissions Trading Scheme. Climate change continues to be the most important environmental issue facing the world.
The kiwi is New Zealand’s most iconic species, but continues to decline on the mainland, as do many of our other birds. Following on from the Commissioner’s previous work on pest control and conservation land management, an investigation into the future of kiwi and other native birds in the wild has been initiated.
A number of past reports remain topical and continue to provide opportunities to assess responses to findings and recommendations. Two update reports currently being prepared are on the effectiveness of solar water heating in New Zealand, and fracking.
Work is also underway following up on a 2013 report that examined the critical relationship between water quality and land use change. The original report presented modelled estimates of the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus being leached into the country’s rivers and lakes. The follow-up report will compare the model predictions with actual data, to verify how well the model estimates match what has unfolded to date.