Nature – NZ needs nature, but first nature needs us

Introduced land mammals such as possums, stoats and rats are responsible for most of an estimated 26.6 million egg and chick losses for native bird species every year.

The Environment Aotearoa 2022 State of the Environment report shows that nature will help and protect New Zealand’s society and economy, but only if we do a lot more to protect nature first.

“This report shows that nature is helping us in many ways, but it’s clear that much more needs to be done to protect nature,” Forest & Bird Chief Executive, Kevin Hague, says.

“The previous reports [2018-2021] show that all environments – critical to New Zealanders’ wellbeing – are struggling with the impacts of human activity in our warming world. 

“We rely on nature, yet it can only help us cope with the impacts of climate change and benefit our wellbeing if we take decisive action to restore and maintain its healthy state.”

Forest & Bird supports the focus of the report, on the ability for the environment to support people.

“We also have a duty to the land, rivers and oceans. And the report amply demonstrates continuing degradation,” Hague says.

Introduced land mammals such as stoats, possums, and rats are responsible for most of an estimated 26.6 million egg and chick losses for native bird species every year (Land & Biodiversity, Tupuānuku and Tupuārangi)

In 2016, 74 percent of our terrestrial birds (78 of 105) were threatened with extinction or at risk of becoming threatened. For reptiles, this proportion was far greater: 94 percent (116 of 124) were threatened or at risk in 2021 (Land & Biodiversity, Tupuānuku and Tupuārangi)

Climate change contributed to 12 extreme rainfall events from 2007-2017 (Atmosphere and climate, Waipunarangi and Ururangi)

There are microplastics in the food chain; increasing sedimentation, affecting shellfish and fin fish; seas are warming and acidification is happening; Toheroa haven’t recovered in 40 years; fishing methods are still damaging the seabed; and seabirds and marine mammals are still affected by bycatch (Marine, Waitā)

Wetland loss is continuing, with freshwater wetland area decreasing by 1498 hectares (0.6 percent) between 2012 and 2018, and saline wetland area decreasing by 69 hectares (0.1 percent) in the same period (Freshwater, Waitī )

In Southland, between 1996 and 2018, there was a net loss of 2665 hectares of freshwater wetlands. Of the area of freshwater wetlands that were lost, 98 percent were because of conversion to land covers associated with farming and forestry (Freshwater, Waitī ).

We are still seeing worsening trends in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, water clarity, e. coli, and macroinvertebrate health in many of our rivers. (Freshwater, Waitī ).

Forest & Bird says it is time that business and industries, such as agriculture and dairying, acknowledge how vulnerable they are to climate change – and realise they need look after nature to ensure their own future wellbeing.

The Government will be shortly releasing its implementation plan for Te Mana o te Taiao, the Government’s Biodiversity Strategy to protect and restore nature.

“It’s vital that the Government’s implementation plan for Te Mana o te Taiao has the breadth and ambition to turn around these statistics,” Hague says.

“There must be real, sustained, and properly resourced environmental action – a genuine and combined effort from all government departments and industries – to create the wellbeing Kiwis and our unique plants and animals desperately need.”

ENDS