Data improvement projects

This page has information on the research we commission to improve future environmental reporting.

The Ministry for the Environment commissions small research projects that enhance our ability to report nationally. Projects are selected for their importance in reporting on our environment and for their feasibility. Some projects review existing environmental monitoring data while others research new methods, metrics, analyses or data streams. 

Current and ongoing projects

Coastal water quality monitoring recommendations

Monitoring data for coastal water quality is collected by regional councils, but there is currently no up-to-date national guidance on which water quality parameters (eg, nitrates) should be reported and how. 

Working with regional councils who collect the data, this project will provide recommendations for future monitoring, analysis and reporting of coastal water quality data. 

EEZ Marine Trophic Index

The Convention on Biological Diversity recommends the use of the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) marine trophic index (MTI) to report on the state of the marine environment. The MTI shows where in the food-chain we are fishing (eg, whether most of our fish catch are plankton feeders or top predators).  This information helps us determine if the composition of our catch is changing which can indicate whether stocks are being overfished. This project will scope and develop an EEZ MTI for New Zealand.

Nitrogen dioxide modelling

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an important pollutant which has health impacts and is subject to a national environmental standard. Concentrations of NO2 can also be used as a marker for road traffic exhaust emissions, one of the major sources of air pollutants in New Zealand. 

This project will model human health impacts from the nitrogen dioxide concentrations New Zealanders are exposed to, allowing improved environmental reporting. 

Meteorological conditions and air quality interactions

Weather variables significantly affect the amount of pollutants in the air. They can do so directly through dispersion (eg, by wind), by accumulation (eg, temperature inversions), by removal (eg, by rain) and by creation and transformation of pollutants (eg, sunlight and ozone production). They can also have an indirect affect through increased emissions when it is cold (eg, from home heating).  

This work will model the effect of meteorological conditions on pollutant concentrations, particularly on particulate matter concentrations (PM10).

New projects

We are looking to start work on projects related to: 

  • air quality monitoring and health effects 
  • rainfall intensity 
  • emissions inventory 
  • land fragmentation
  • irrigation mapping
  • marine trophic index
  • coastal sediment input
  • contemporary changes in wetland extent and ecosystem threat classification.

Past projects

Project Title



Coastal and ocean extreme wave index


Developed coastal and open ocean extreme wave indices to quantify the number of exceedances of significant wave height in New Zealand’s coastal regions and open oceans in a given year compared to the average number of such events over the long-term.


This will be published in the environmental report Our Marine Environment 2016.

Developing an ocean storm index


Produced a measure to present data on ocean storms for environmental reporting.


This will be published in the environmental report Our Marine Environment 2016.

Developing indicators for marine non-indigenous species


Delivered a new suite of indicators for non-indigenous species in marine systems.


This will be published in the environmental report Our Marine Environment 2016.

Te Ao Māori prioritisation


Identified high priority information for national environmental reporting on te ao Māori.


Reporting environmental impacts on Te Ao Maori: a strategic scoping document

Biodiversity plot registry


Collated information on the national plot network into a master data plot registry and generated a national sampling plan. This work was also funded by DOC, regional councils, Landcare Research and the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.

This will be published shortly on the MfE website. For more information email:

Investigating the power of citizen science using Garden Bird Survey data


Investigated how statistical modelling could improve the power of citizen science datasets to reveal environmental trends. It used the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey as the example citizen dataset.


Use of NZ Garden Bird Survey data in environmental reporting: Preliminary models to account for spatial variation in sampling effort


Mapping biodiversity hotspots using DNA and herbarium specimens


Used DNA, herbarium specimens and distributions, and new software to map spatial patterns in plant biodiversity.


cpDNA rbcL sequences for Biodiverse analyses 


Identifying and prioritising improvements to national air quality information 


Scoped out how national air quality monitoring could be improved to enable better national environmental reporting. 


Options for research to enhance national air quality information for environmental reporting


Climate data modelling


Used statistical and spatial modelling to fill gaps in climate data and improve our ability to report on trends in the climate.

This dataset is available on the MfE Data Service.