A health check on our environment

Date:  17 April 2019
by Alison Collins, Departmental Science Advisor at Ministry for the EnvironmentA health check on our environment

As light breaks, you wake to birdsong. As you turn on your tap, water gushes to fill the kettle for a morning coffee. A crowded train weaves its way through glimmering high rise and small houses with their flaking weatherboards, taking you into the city. To clear the head after a morning’s work you dodge bikes and skateboards along the waterfront, in the hope of seeing a dolphin cameo. Later in the day, you share an evening meal grown from our rich earthy soils. As the sun begins to set a silver fern dances on a rippling flag in a stadium of cheers. Later, as you breathe in the cold evening air, you look up at a sky pierced with patterns of light.

This is our environment. It is where we live, learn, work, and play. It is our home and our identity.

Environment Aotearoa is a report that provides a ‘health check’ on our environment. 

Just as we have measures on the health of our economy – such as jobs and GDP, or our own health – such as our heart rate and activity through our fitness trackers, Environment Aotearoa provides a diagnosis on the health of our environment.

It provides a check on what is improving, what is declining and what is at risk. 

In contrast to previous reports that concentrated on the state of air or land or freshwater, Environment Aotearoa brings together a picture of our whole environment. 

This is no easy task - our environment operates at many different scales, and has so many intricate and complex interdependences. To overcome this challenge the report brings together the best available information from many different sources, and from the last three years of individual domain reports. The information is carefully and methodically checked and draws on a body of evidence from our best science endeavours. 

The report is for everybody, and to ensure it is meaningful it is structured as a series of issues. Each issue tells a story on what matters most to us as New Zealanders and shows the way we live can affect the things we value in our environment.

We have many choices about the way we live and there are lots of things we can do to make a difference as individuals, families, communities and as a country. 

These choices, including how we live in our homes, what we plant in our garden, how we manage our waste to the way we choose to travel, have an impact on the health of our environment.

The value of the report is that it provides a health check on our environment – for what we don’t know, we can’t fix. The report provides the evidence to help us have an honest conversation on what we treasure, the implications of the choices we make and where we need to take action.