Environmental reporting data improvement projects

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

We commission 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

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 measures the changing abundance and diversity of demersal fish species (living and feeding on or near the seabed) in fishery catches. It is used internationally to measure changes in marine ecosystems associated with fishing and climate variability. We are currently working with NIWA and Fisheries New Zealand (MPI) to develop an MTI for New Zealand.

New projects

We are looking to work on projects related to: 

  • air quality health impacts
  • land fragmentation
  • irrigation mapping
  • marine trophic index
  • coastal sediment input
  • contemporary changes in wetland extent and ecosystem threat classification.  New Zealand rainfall intensity indices

Past projects

Project Title



Marine trophic index: Chatham Rise Developed an MTI for the Chatham Rise area based on research trawl surveys. Marine trophic index: Chatham Rise
New Zealand coastal water quality assessment Collated and analysed regional coastal water quality data for 15 variables. The results include trends and their magnitude. The report recommended variables for long-term reporting. New Zealand coastal water quality assessment

Improved measure of rainfall intensity

Developed new measures for reporting on intense rainfall events. In total 12 possible intense rainfall metrics were identified. Two of these were considered most relevant for New Zealand.

New Zealand rainfall intensity indices

Improved measure of extreme wind

Developed new measures for reporting on extreme wind. A number of possible metrics were considered and two were identified as providing the most appropriate measure of extreme wind.

Damaging wind gust index

Reporting the Results of Cultural Assessments: from site assessments to catchment wide reporting

This report presents a case study of cultural assessments for fresh water in the Waitaki catchment in Canterbury.


It demonstrates how site-by-site assessments can be aggregated up to a sub-catchment or catchment level, to ensure cultural health reporting can better inform regional freshwater planning.

Reporting the results of cultural assessments: from site assessments to catchment wide reporting

He Pātaka Wai Ora Report (Waikouaiti River, Otago)

This report provides an overview of the He Pātaka Wai Ora project.


The project integrated scientific and matauranga māori monitoring methods to establish the state of freshwater species’ biodiversity and water quality in the Waikouaiti catchment in North Otago.


The results will be used by Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki to identify degraded mahinga kai sites and inform community-led restoration programmes and management plans.


The results of this project have also informed the Ministry for the Environment/Stats NZ ‘Our fresh water 2017’ report.


This report is to be read in conjunction with He Pātaka Wai Ora: methods and results.

He Pātaka Wai Ora Report (Waikouaiti River, Otago)

National Water Allocation Statistics for Environmental Reporting

This report aimed to develop national level statistics on water allocation to quantify the pressures on river flows, and in turn freshwater ecosystems.


The results of the analysis can be used to produce a national picture of water allocation and to indicate its potential pressures on freshwater.

National water allocation statistics for environmental reporting

Temporal Trends in the Relative Abundance of New Zealand Freshwater Fishes: analysis of New Zealand freshwater fish database records

This report presents trends in the abundance of freshwater species between 1977 and 2015 based on standardised data from the New Zealand Freshwater Fish Database.


The key aim of the study was to develop more accurate methods for calculating the size and trends of freshwater fish species in New Zealand to improve future environmental reporting.


The report also gives a snapshot of the population trends in both indigenous and exotic fish species between 1977 and 2015.

Temporal trends in the relative abundance of New Zealand freshwater fishes: analysis of New Zealand freshwater fish database records

Urban Streams Water Quality State and Trends

This report looks at the state and trends of water quality in urban streams, with a focus on Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.


Data on the state of water quality is based on samples taken between 2013–2015, while trends were assessed based on eight years of data from 2008–2015.

Urban streams water quality state and trends

Water Quality in New Zealand Rivers: Modelled Water Quality State

This report models the state of water quality along New Zealand’s national river network using data measured at freshwater monitoring sites between 2009 and 2013.

Water quality in New Zealand rivers: modelled water quality state

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.

Extreme wave indices for New Zealand coastal and oceanic waters

Developing an ocean storm index

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

Ocean storm index

Developing indicators for marine non-indigenous species

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

Indicators of non-indigenous species in marine systems

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

8-km Grid Plot Registry project

This report outlines a national sampling plan for the 8-km Grid. The 8-km Grid is a sampling framework used to monitor biodiversity, carbon and soil at national and regional scales. The report provides a tool to help multiple agencies coordinate the monitoring they undertake on the Grid.


Please refer to the context information when using the document.

Design of New Zealand’s 8-km grid-based plot network: Static master data

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