A framework for environmental reporting in New Zealand

This page outlines the framework we use for environmental reporting and the reporting cycle.

Reporting framework

In the past, environmental reporting focused mainly on the state of the environment and this often involved a ‘snap-shot’ approach.

Under the Environmental Reporting Act 2015 (the Act) we have a wider focus.

We now report on:

  • the state of the environment
  • the pressures that have created that state
  • the way the state of the environment influences other spheres of the environment and our life (public health, ecological integrity, the economy, te ao Māori, and culture and recreation).

We hope that by using this approach we can better understand the environment as an interconnected and dynamic system which influences, and is influenced by, many aspects of the human world.

The following sections explain what is meant by pressures, states and impacts.


These explain the human activities and natural factors that influence the environment. They answer the ‘why?’ questions about the domain.

For instance: Why is the domain in the condition it is in?


These describe the biophysical condition of the environment. They answer the ‘what?’ questions about the environment.

For instance: What are the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of a domain and how have they varied over time?


These explain what the state and changes in the state mean by informing the ‘so what?’ questions about the environment.

For instance: What are the consequences of changes in the state for New Zealand’s environment, economy and society?

How the framework is used

The use of the pressure-state-impact framework in other countries often incorporates ‘responses’ in addition to, or in place of, impacts.

Separation of environmental reporting from the discussion about how to address environmental issues (the response) is an important principle of the environmental reporting framework.

Environmental reporting is an objective exercise in which we present information on our environment. Developing responses to address environmental issues is more subjective and open to debate. It involves government, stakeholders and society as a whole making judgements on what we value most and what trade-offs are acceptable.

Separation of the two is critical to maintaining an environmental reporting regime that is independent of other decision-making processes and is therefore trusted and credible.

Reporting cycle

Under the Act, reports will be released on a three-yearly reporting cycle with one domain reported on every six months. See Environmental Reporting Series – release dates [Stats NZ website].

Once every three years, a synthesis report covering all five domains will be produced. The synthesis report will focus on the overall picture of our environment including interactions between domains.