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Improving data quality

Targeted improvements to environmental monitoring will result in higher-quality data. We are working with data collectors and government funding agencies to help improve national environmental data for future reporting.

Working with data collectors

The Environmental Monitoring and Reporting (EMaR) project is one of the cross-government initiatives aimed at improving the quality and consistency of data gathered. EMaR is led by local government in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment, with support from Statistics NZ and other agencies. The project aims to develop integrated regional and national environmental data collection networks, and to make environmental data accessible to the wider public. This is currently done through the Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website.

Regional councils are also developing standards and guidance for collecting data on the state of our environment, supported by the Ministry for the Environment. Standards will ensure consistency in monitoring techniques and methods between councils. An example of these is the national environmental monitoring standards.

Future data improvement projects will help data providers improve their current monitoring and reporting efforts. For example, projects may link with the current work of Crown research institutes and universities to develop their monitoring programmes. They could also use funds from Envirolink or the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to help improve environmental monitoring and reporting.

Improving representativeness

We can make data more representative by installing monitoring devices in a wider range of locations. To address the bias for monitoring sites in poor environmental condition, more sites in comparatively good environmental condition may be included. For example, the Ministry for the Environment is working on improving the coverage of the water quality monitoring network.

Modelling will have an increasingly important role in producing a representative national picture, and in providing consistency across the regions and between indicators. Future modelling will include biophysical models as well as increasingly sophisticated statistical models.

For example, the Ministry for the Environment is developing a national freshwater flows model. When this model is complete, it will enable us to estimate the characteristic patterns of flow quantity, timing, and variability in rivers throughout New Zealand, the pressures on these characteristic flow patterns, and their impacts on our environment, economy, and society. We are also developing a water quality model – using data from the past 25 years – to understand freshwater quality throughout New Zealand and the pressures affecting it.

Improving specific datasets and creating new ones

The Ministry for the Environment has a limited amount of funding to target specific data improvement projects. Recent projects included funding a comprehensive home-heating inventory to better understand the sources of poor air quality, and commissioning an improved estimate of the amount of groundwater in New Zealand. We will continue to commission such projects, as resources and priorities allow, to improve our ability to understand New Zealand’s environment.