LAWA's 10th Anniversary: A Milestone in Public Access to NZ's Environmental Data

The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) project team is proudly celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing environmental data and information online for all New Zealanders to access.

“Ten years ago, project partners launched the LAWA website guided by the belief that informed communities are encouraged to spend time in and make a difference preserving the natural world.

“Today, the LAWA website endures as a trusted source of information about New Zealand’s land, air, and water, helping to inform communities nation-wide,” said LAWA Chair Dr Tim Davie.

Michael McCartney, Te Uru Kahika – Regional and Unitary Councils Aotearoa Chief Executive Officers Group Convenor, highlighted the power of environmental data to inform decision-making.

"Over the years, seeing LAWA grow as a platform and the information on it being used by people and organisations from all different backgrounds reaffirms the importance of accessible environmental data.

“Initially, we knew our information was valuable, but it’s been especially profound to see it drive national discourse and inform daily decisions — whether that’s by indicating suitable swimming spots during summer or informing local conservation efforts.

“As Regional Government, we’re proud of what we offer the people of New Zealand through LAWA,” said Mr McCartney.

Dr Roger Young is an ecologist and Freshwater Group Manager at Cawthron Institute, and he has been with the LAWA project since its inception. Dr Young explained that LAWA was born from a bold vision to increase access to the freshwater monitoring data collected by regional and unitary council scientists on behalf of their communities.

“The data presented on LAWA is vital to environmental improvement efforts.

“By monitoring waterways and their surrounding catchments, we better understand freshwater health and pressures.

“Over the past decade, we've made significant strides in providing trustworthy and accessible data that can be used to make a difference to the wellbeing of our rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries and groundwaters. There’s also been an increase in the number of sites where this data is available.

“LAWA is used by policy makers, iwi/ hapū, industry, catchment care groups, and researchers alike,” said Dr Young.

Over the past decade, analyses of LAWA data have provided insights including the relationship between land cover and water quality, with urban and pastoral catchments often faring worse.

LAWA has tracked improvements in New Zealand’s monitored air quality and identified areas where extra attention could further improve health outcomes.

The project annually highlights the health of the country’s freshwater, revealing the areas of ecological and water quality stress as well as signs of improvement, as observed in the data.

LAWA Project Chair Dr Tim Davie expressed thanks to everyone involved in LAWA’s success.

"This anniversary is a testament to the dedication and collaboration of countless individuals and organisations, as well as the hundreds of thousands of LAWA website users who have made the platform a central part of New Zealand's environmental science landscape.

“The past 10 years have been a journey of collaboration and shared purpose. Looking forward, we will continue to innovate and deliver for our communities and our environments with new topics and insights,” said Dr Davie.

LAWA project partners include all 16 regional and unitary councils, the Ministry for the Environment, StatsNZ, the Department of Conservation, and Cawthron Institute. The project enjoyed early support from the Tindall Foundation and Massey University and continues to collaborate with other organisations to make quality environmental data and information available.