Environment Aotearoa 2019 Response: Strong data networks for better environmental guardianship.

Today, Stats NZ and the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) released Environment Aotearoa 2019, an overview report on the state of our environment as mandated by the Environmental Reporting Act 2015.

The report looks across environmental domains to identify the most pressing issues and potential knowledge gaps. The gaps identified provide a useful platform for considering how we might continue to build on and improve New Zealand’s environmental monitoring networks.

Regional councils and unitary authorities operate many environmental monitoring programmes and the data collected helps local and central government better understand and care for our land, air, and water.  For example, regional councils supplied their monitoring data to MfE and Stats NZ to help inform the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report and NIWA provided additional analysis of this dataset at the national level.

The importance of data for reporting on the current state of our environment and determining the impact of human activities is clear across all five report themes; our ecosystems and biodiversity, how we use our land, pollution from our activities, how we use our freshwater and marine resources, and our changing climate. Quality data networks allow decision-makers to have a greater understanding of where the pressures are, what interventions are working, and ultimately the best use of resources to achieve desired outcomes. Good data also connects with our environment and means we can make better choices as we learn more about the impacts of our activities.

Regional councils, MfE, Stats NZ, DOC, and science institutes work together to improve data networks through initiatives like the Environmental Monitoring and Reporting (EMaR) programme. EMaR is focused on improving the coverage, consistency, quality, and representation of data across rivers, groundwater, biodiversity, air, land, estuaries, coasts, and lakes. It’s a big job and the bulk of the work happens behind the scenes with the support of scientists, data managers, and technicians.

In the years since Environment Aotearoa 2015 was released, the EMaR programme has made significant progress. EMaR has helped to connect New Zealand’s environmental data landscape, improve data standardisation, and made it possible for regional council monitoring data across the country to be visible and accessible through the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website.

By using LAWA people in every region of New Zealand can explore monitoring data where they are and track how community actions are making a difference. The LAWA project is world leading and we hope to build on its momentum to share more information and data that can help us all make better decisions for our environment.