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No Surprises In Latest State Of Environment Report

Few Surprises In Latest State Of Environment Report

There’s good news – and bad news – but few surprises in the latest comprehensive report on the state of Northland’s environment.

The Northland Regional Council today (subs: Fri 04 April) released a 500-plus page State of the Environment (SOE) Report examining air, freshwater, coastal, land and biodiversity issues. The report – which represents several years work by Council staff – is now available on the Council’s website at: www.nrc.govt.nz/soe

Tony Phipps, the Council’s Monitoring Manager, says the main purpose of the report is to enable both the Council and wider Northland community to make informed decisions on environmental management issues.

The report generally focuses on regional environmental trends over the period from 2002 to 2007, but also covers an even longer period where data is available.

It builds on the findings of its predecessor - published in 2002 - and once again draws on extensive data from the Council’s own monitoring programmes, as well as data from other agencies like the District Councils, Department of Conservation and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Mr Phipps says the scope and complexity of the latest report make it difficult to accurately generalise its findings, but overall it contains few surprises. It also shows that while some of the numbers have changed and there is some very useful new information, the region’s environment is in a similar state to that of five years ago.

Mr Phipps concedes that at first glance, that lack of overall improvement since 2002 might appear disappointing.

“However, the reality is that despite often quite significant efforts and increased awareness of environmental issues, the scale of Northland’s problems mean it will realistically take more than a few years for large scale improvements to be recorded.”

“As a region, we’re by no means unique in this regard and the bulk of the issues we are facing are similar to those shared by many other agriculturally-based regions throughout New Zealand.”


Mr Phipps says the report shows Northlanders could still take heart from some changes for the better.

“Overall, there have been welcome improvements in some aspects of the health of our waterways; for example the levels of potentially harmful nutrients in some of our major rivers and streams have reduced significantly. This is largely due to improvements in discharges from industrial and farming sources and community wastewater treatment plants.”

The region’s air quality remained good overall and the sea water quality in open coastal areas is high.

Northland had also seen pleasing amounts of habitat and biodiversity protection and much-needed research had been carried out into areas like groundwater resources, coastal hazards and biodiversity.

But the report had once again highlighted a number of areas where the region needs to do better. These included the water quality of its lakes and its rivers in farming and urban areas, at-risk development in areas affected by coastal or flooding hazards, high or potential over-allocation of some water resources and sustainable land management (particularly soil conservation).

Council Chairman Mark Farnsworth says the latest report - as with its predecessor - is effectively an “accountability card” against which future environmental developments and improvements can be measured.

“As Northlanders, it gives us a very clear steer as to the areas we need to be investing time, effort and resources into and as a Council we will need to factor this information into our environmental decision-making processes.”
The Council plans to releases a summary of the report before the end of the financial year, however, the detailed nature of the report proper means it is only available in electronic form from the Council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/soe

Mr Phipps says the advantage of a web-based report is the number of links it contains to supporting information and detailed technical reports. Additionally, new information can be added as it becomes available


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