Environment Aotearoa 2019 Overview

Environment Aotearoa 2019 provides an overview of the state of our environment. Using five broad themes the report presents nine priority environmental issues. Each issue includes information about why it matters, what has changed, and the consequences.

Theme 1: Our ecosystems and biodiversity

Issue 1: Our native plants, animals, and ecosystems are under threat

Theme 2: How we use our land

Issue 2: Changes to the vegetation on our land are degrading the soil and water

Issue 3: Urban growth is reducing versatile land and native biodiversity

Theme 3: Pollution from our activities

Issue 4: Our waterways are polluted in farming areas

Issue 5: Our environment is polluted in urban areas

Theme 4: How we use our freshwater and marine resources

Issue 6: Taking water changes flows which affects our freshwater ecosystems

Issue 7: The way we fish is affecting the health of our ocean environment

Theme 5: Our changing climate

Issue 8: New Zealand has high greenhouse gas emissions per person

Issue 9: Climate change is already affecting Aotearoa New Zealand


Prioritising the issues

There are many environmental issues in our country. We used the four criteria below to help describe the significance and urgency of different issues, and identify those that matter most: 

  • Spatial extent and scale: how much of New Zealand is affected by the issue?
  • Magnitude of change: is the issue increasing in scale and/or distribution, or accelerating?
  • Irreversibility and lasting effects of change: how hard is it to fix?
  • Scale of effect on culture, recreation, health, and economy: how much does it affect the things we value? 

An independent panel of scientists verified the selection process. Māori researchers and practitioners also considered the relevance of the issues to cultural values. 


Foxton Wetlands

Senior science team

A team of internationally recognised scientists formed a senior science team who provided guidance throughout the report scoping, writing, review and publication process.

  • Dr. Alison Collins, Departmental Science Advisor – Ministry for the Environment – Manatū Mō Te Taiao
  • Dr. Alison MacDiarmid, Regional Manager Wellington – NIWA – Taihoro Nukurangi.
  • Dr. Anne-Gaelle Ausseil, Researcher – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
  • Dr. Clive Howard-Williams, Emeritus Scientist – NIWA Taihoro Nukurangi
  • Dr. Phil Lyver, Kairangahau Māori – Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research



The data used in Environment Aotearoa 2019 is taken from the latest environmental reports produced by MfE and Stats NZ. Environment Aotearoa 2019 draws on 60 environmental indicators. One indicator is used for the first time here – nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, as a measure of the pressure placed on waterways. seventeen indicators ​have been updated since they were last used in a report.

The list of environmental indicators is on Stats NZ's website. The data that makes up each indicator can be accessed from the indicator pages or via the MfE data service


Te ao Māori focus 

Te ao Māori, a Māori world view, has an important place in environmental reporting in New Zealand. It respects the unique connection that tangata whenua have with the land and helps us see ourselves as a part of, not apart from, the environment. Te ao Māori has been included in the report whenever possible. 


Understanding our environment

To ensure the health of our environment, we need to be able to make good decisions, based on robust data, scientific evidence and adequate knowledge.

Environment Aotearoa 2019 also highlights data gaps and areas where our knowledge is incomplete. This includes trends over time and specifics about what and how certain activities are making things worse. Better information is also needed about what's happening at a regional level and how we can act to make the best use of our resources.