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Scorecard a narrow view of environmental picture

Scorecard a narrow view of environmental picture

While it is great that New Zealand has scored number 1 in the Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index, the result is based on narrow evaluation and does not reflect the true picture, the Green Party says.

Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says the result is very much influenced by what the authors chose to measure to indicate environmental quality, and how they chose to measure it.

"You would expect New Zealand to do well on child mortality, safe drinking water and sanitation - we have been a developed country in these respects for all of my lifetime. Nothing has particularly changed there.

"However, there are many indicators which the authors have not measured. There is nothing to show the levels of our exposure to toxic chemicals, our handling of waste. There is also no evaluation of our loss of ecosystems and species - like the fact that we have drained 90 percent of our wetlands, or that we have more native birds threatened with extinction than any other country," she says.

Scores are expressed as a percentage out of 100, with 100 being a "desirable" outcome.

"We score quite low on overfishing, at just 33/100, and on renewable energy on just 35/100, but this doesn't count against us because other countries score even worse. This is an indication of how seriously unsustainable the world's fisheries and energy systems are," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"As for greenhouse gas emissions, only carbon dioxide is measured, so we come out well compared with highly industrialised countries that burn a lot of coal. But, in fact, our total greenhouse gas emissions tell another story because our methane emissions are so high, but this report does not refer to them at all.

"Nature conservation is measured by the percentage of wilderness that is in protected areas. That ignores how much wilderness has already been destroyed and is no longer there to protect, and also whether species in protected areas are surviving. We have many native birds in protected areas, which are declining because there is not enough control of predators."

The report specifically singles out New Zealand to say that management of productive resources, such as soils, fish and freshwater, 'show plenty of room for improvement', she says.

"The one indicator where there has been real improvement over recent years is that we score 100% on timber harvest rates. While we are not always logging with due regard to soil and water, at least we are no longer clear felling native timbers and the Labour-led Government must be congratulated for stopping that."

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