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Report cards: progress towards sustainability

News release

27 November 2007

Annual report cards reveal progress towards sustainability

Report cards released today by Greater Wellington show a region in reasonable environmental health but still grappling with the pressures of urban and agricultural development.

The cards cover the health of rivers, streams and coastlines, air quality, recreational water quality, rainfall and river flows, groundwater, soil, natural hazards and pollution control. They tell the story of what happened last year, and actions the Council is taking to manage the region’s resources more sustainably.

Among the issues highlighted is the continuing impact of urban and agricultural land use on river and stream health, particularly urban and most lowland rural streams.

Demand to fill in, pipe or realign small streams to make way for urban development has been growing over the last decade. Increased sediment runoff from urban areas is also finding its way into more streams and coastal waters, in particular Porirua Harbour.

Water supply pressures are also growing in some areas after the second driest autumn on record. The dry summer and autumn resulted in pressure on groundwater resources as irrigation demands increased.

Greater Wellington Regional Sustainability Committee chairperson Cr Chris Laidlaw said the report cards enabled the council to assess its progress towards environmental goals and share information about natural resources with the wider community.

“It’s very important for us to share our technical information about the state of the environment with everyone in the community. Recreational swimmers and fishermen need to know the state of our coast and rivers, while farmers need to know the condition of their soils and the availability and quality of water for irrigation.

“There are important links between our environmental monitoring and our work assisting schools, businesses and community groups to look after their local areas.

“Through our Take Care programme we are supporting 22 care groups to improve streamside and wetland environments throughout the region. Through Take Action we are working with 35 schools to help children both explore the causes of pollution in their local waterways and then take action with solutions.

“This work helps to mobilise the community to work together and often has considerable social as well as environmental benefits. It is a significant element in the long march toward genuine sustainability.”

ENDS

A summary of findings is provided on the next page and a .pdf of the report cards is attached. More detailed monitoring reports are available at www.gw.govt.nz.

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Report snapshot

Recreational water quality

Forty six of the 76 beaches monitored had water quality that was suitable for swimming on all sampling occasions. River water quality was suitable for swimming on all sampling occasions at four of the 20 sampling sites, with rivers most likely to be unsuitable for swimming after rain.

River & stream health

26 of 56 river and stream sites monitored over 2006/07 had excellent or good water quality. Water quality is poorest in urban streams and in the lower reaches of rivers and streams draining agricultural catchments. Work has started on an urban stream management strategy and workshops have been held promoting the values of small streams.

Rainfall & river flows

Although rainfalls of over 300mm in the Wairarapa in July 2006 resulted in very high river flows and some flooding, the remainder of the year was very dry, with the second driest autumn on record. The Wairarapa plains and eastern Wairarapa hills were the hardest hit by the autumn droughts with soil moisture levels well below average.

Natural Hazards

The rainy 2006 winter triggered landslides that damaged and destroyed houses in Lower Hutt, Eastbourne and Oriental Parade while two severe rain storms in July last year flooded farms and roads in the Wairarapa.

Groundwater levels

The dry summer and autumn resulted in pressure on groundwater resources as irrigation demands increased. Groundwater quality is generally very good, but monitoring in 71 bores revealed high nitrate levels in four bores while bacteria were detected in nine.

Soil health and contamination

Most of the soil sites tested had at least one soil quality indicator outside the target range for their land use, with many soils showing compaction and high levels of nutrients. Most problems could be rectified through appropriate management.

Air quality

The region had low air pollution levels last winter, with particulate matter (PM10) the only pollutant to exceed the national environmental standards for air quality, and that was on only one occasion.

Pollution control

Environmental incidents were down 20% from last year, with odour showing the biggest decrease. Enforcement actions were up 21%.

Harbours, estuaries and beaches

A survey of Wellington harbour’s sea floor revealed more than 100 animal species, mostly native crustaceans, molluscs and worms. We are currently analysing the results of a survey of the harbour’s sediment quality.

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