This year we will review how the Government reports on the state of our environment, and focus on two environmental issues of significant immediate policy interest: tourism and the health of our estuarine environments.
A system for reporting on the state of our environment was established under the Environmental Reporting Act 2015. This environmental reporting system has now completed one full cycle of reports. To mark the completion of the cycle, the Commissioner is reviewing how the system as a whole has performed and how it might be improved.
Tourism is a major contributor to our economy. But its environmental impact has received a fraction of the attention devoted to our land-based industries. As the sector grows, it will become increasingly important to understand the demands the sector makes on the natural resource base, and to examine the ways any impacts can be reduced or internalised.
New Zealand’s estuarine habitats are the receiving environment for much of what we do on land, and are also affected by what we do at sea. Centuries of forest clearance have resulted in greatly increased sediment loads entering our waterways, while in recent decades intensive farming practices and urban growth have resulted in unprecedented nutrient levels in our streams and rivers. These factors often combine to change the physical and chemical properties of the water in the more than 400 estuaries that dot our coastline.
Along with fishing pressure, climate change and marine pollution, these pressures threaten the future health and wellbeing of estuarine ecosystems. Unless we can better account for and manage these stressors, we risk losing the rich and varied ecosystem services and cultural values that estuarine habitats provide us.
Advice to Parliament
Throughout the year, the Commissioner will provide advice to select committees on environmental bills. He may also make submissions on proposed environmental policies and regulations.