Environment in serious trouble

Wednesday 24 Apr 2019

A bleak picture of the state of New Zealand's environment has been painted by the government's official report, Environment Aotearoa 2019.

The report is jointly produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, and is a follow on from the last report in 2015.

The report says the way New Zealanders live and make a living is having a serious impact on the environment, and the benefits New Zealanders get from being in nature, though not measured or quantified, could be lost.

The report has outlined nine priority areas which are detailed below.

Biodiversity

At least 75 animal and plant species have become extinct since humans arrived in New Zealand, and the extinction risk for 86 species has worsened in the last 15 years.

Species are at risk in marine, freshwater and land ecosystems. Cumulatively 4000 native species are currently threatened with or at risk of extinction - 90 percent of seabirds, 76 percent of freshwater fish, 84 percent of reptiles, and 46 percent of vascular plants.

Introduced plant species now out number natives in New Zealand, and similarly, stoats, possums and rats were present on more than 94 percent of land in 2014.

Added to that pressure is the threat of new diseases, such as myrtle rust, which arrived in 2017 and kills native plants like manuka, pohutukawa and rata.

The conservation status has improved for 26 species in the past 10 years, but more than half require active management to stay that way.

Land use

What New Zealanders have removed from the land, and what has been built on it has had a detrimental effect on the environment.

Native forests used to cover about 80 percent of the country, but now only cover just over a quarter of New Zealand.

Ten percent of the country was covered in wetlands, but 90 percent of these have now been drained.

In 2012, just over half of the country's land had been modified, like urban areas and pasture is now the single biggest type of land cover, making up about 40 percent of the total land area.

Between 1996 and 2012, more than 70,000 hectares of native vegetation were lost through conversion to pasture, plantation forestry and urban areas.

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Source: Scoop News


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