21 Oct 2015

Environment report depressing - Opposition

6:48 pm on 21 October 2015

The latest state of the environment report makes for depressing reading, say opposition parties.

A stream near Shannon in Manawatu, which flows into the Manawatu River.

A stream near Shannon in Manawatu, which flows into the Manawatu River. Photo: 123RF

The first such report in eight years showed mixed results on the five environmental areas it looked at: air, atmosphere and climate, fresh water, land and marine.

Air quality has improved since 2006 and overfishing, seabed trawling and bycatch of protected species has reduced.

But there has been a decline in water quality and a 42 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2013.

It also found damage to land from more intensive dairy farming was a significant problem.

Prime Minister John Key said farmers needed to continue to work on reducing their environmental footprint.

"They are doing that - you are seeing them fencing off all of their waterways and by 2017 that will be compulsory, you are seeing dramatic changes in the way they treat effluent playing out so there is clearly more work to be done."

Despite that, Mr Key saw no need to put a stop to more dairy farming, saying the environment could handle more.

"But we are going to have to make sure that we are careful about the way that we do that and that we treat all of the by-products of that if you like and the potential environmental impacts sensibly," he said.

Rivers becoming unswimable

Labour's environment spokesperson, Megan Woods, said it was good to have regular environmental reporting but what it showed was worrying.

"Things that we simply have to take notice of, and water quality is one of those," she said.

"To look at the level of nitrogen in our rivers, and what that does to swimability, I think is of concern to all New Zealanders - the fact that more and more of our rivers are becoming unswimable."

Dr Woods said the 42 percent increase in climate-damaging emissions was a massive problem, especially given the Government's target of reducing emissions 50 percent by 2050.

"We've got to find a way to do this and the current track we're on sees emission rising and the Government has no plan.

"It's why Labour has been calling for carbon budgeting through an independent climate commission, because our failure to plan is meaning we are planning to fail - we cannot carry on the way we are, muddling our way through and seeing our emissions rise."

Green Party MP Eugenie Sage said the current Government had taken a hands-off approach to the environment.

"The Government is going in the wrong direction and the report shows that with the increasing emissions, we need a much stronger [climate change] target that we can take to [the United Nations Climate Change conference in] Paris in December."

The next state of the environment report will be published in 2018.

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