The Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ have released the latest national report on the state of our freshwater.
Our Freshwater 2023 details the key pressures on New Zealand’s lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and aquifers, and the impact of declining water quality on the economy, the environment, and our physical and cultural health. An interactive webpage also explores the state of the environment through the eyes of a tuna (longfin eel).
The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment.
- Drs Neale Hudson, Manager –National Freshwater Centre, and Clive Howard-Williams, Emeritus Scientist, at NIWA:
“In Our Freshwater 2023, the Ministry for the Environment has taken advice from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to add pressures such as land use and climate change to the reporting framework.
“In previous reports, the narrow focus on freshwater state was unbalanced, like a medical doctor focusing on the symptoms of an illness without considering the causes. The new report is a good start, but there is a long way to go. The PCE advised ‘adding’ pressures, with no direction about how information about pressures should be used. Simply listing multiple pressures serves to increase the number of disconnected sets of information in the new report. A better use of pressure information is to establish clear, evidence-based relationships between changes in freshwater state and the pressures that cause them. This is a logical step forward, if we are to reverse environmental degradation by reducing pressure levels. Despite the logic, evidence for cause-and-effect relationships is rarely included in environmental reports. Our Freshwater 2023 cites a single study that attributes water quality trends to changes in land use and climate. This work needs to be greatly expanded, and it needs to be a major component of future environmental reports. Continue reading