To mark World Environment Day on Saturday, 5 June 2010 Statistics New Zealand is providing a selection of environmental related facts from Measuring New Zealand's Progress Using a Sustainable Development Approach.
This 2009 report provides a measure of New Zealand's environmental, economic, and social progress. Water quality, a stable climate, and biodiversity are critical to New Zealand’s natural capital, which includes natural resources and ecosystems.
Between 2001 and 2008, the proportion of the population with access to water that meets drinking-water standards has increased. Since 1989, an increasing trend for the level of nitrogen in rivers and streams has been recorded, indicating increased levels of pollution. However, the biological health of rivers has shown little change since 1996, with the majority of monitored sites in 2007 recording good to excellent water quality.
Air and atmosphere
Global attention has focused on two environmental issues in relation to the atmosphere: climate change, due to emissions of greenhouse gases, and ozone depletion. Most of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the agriculture and energy sectors. While net greenhouse emissions have increased since 1990, the intensity of emissions in relation to economic activity has decreased.
Stratospheric ozone levels over New Zealand decreased from the 1970s until the early 1990s but have begun to recover over the ten years to 2008.
The distribution of seven native indicator species, including five birds, a bat, and a plant, has declined over the three decades to 2007. Most of this decline is attributed to predation and competition from introduced pests and habitat loss. Between 2002 and 2005, the threat status worsened rather than
improved for a greater number of native species. However, native land cover changed very little between 1997 and 2002.
The indicator species are: kiwi, kākā, kākako, māhua, and wrybill (birds), the short-tailed bat, and the dactylanthus (a parasitic flowering plant).
World Environment Day has been commemorated on 5 June since 1972, and is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment.