In the past, environmental reporting focused mainly on the state of the environment, often using a ‘snapshot’ approach. Our new approach is different – in addition to reporting on the state of the environment, we also report on the pressures that have created that state, and how this state influences other spheres of the environment and our life – such as our economy, health, social well-being, and the culture and heritage of tāngata whenua. By using this approach, we can better understand the environment as an interconnected and dynamic system that influences and is influenced by many aspects of the human world.
New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series reports on three types of information:
- Pressure: the natural or human pressures that influence the state of the environment. Pressures explain why the domains are in the condition they are in.
- State: the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of each aspect of the environment, and how these aspects are changing over time.
- Impact: the ecological, economic, social, and cultural consequences of changes in the state of the environment. Environmental impacts that have particular significance for Māori are covered under te ao Māori (Māori world view).
The chapters for each domain in this report present information on the impacts first, by asking why the condition of that domain matters. This is followed by a section on the pressures influencing the state of the domain. Finally, the last section presents information on the state of the domain.
We designed Environment Aotearoa 2015 to be read with Environmental indicators Te taiao Aotearoa, which presents more detailed information on the national indicators, case studies, and supporting information for each domain. You can find the raw data we used on the Ministry for the Environment data service.
Why we do not cover how environmental issues will be addressed
New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series does not cover how the environmental issues identified may be addressed. This separation from environmental reporting is an important principle of the environmental reporting framework, and is set out in the Environmental Reporting Act 2015.
Environmental reporting is an objective exercise in which we present information on our environment. In contrast, developing ways to address environmental issues is subjective and open to debate – even though it might be informed by environmental reporting. This process focuses on the question, ‘What is New Zealand doing about it?’ Responding to this question involves government, stakeholders, and society making value judgements – for instance, about what New Zealanders value most, and what trade-offs are acceptable.
This separation is critical to ensuring environmental reporting is independent of other decision-making processes, and is therefore trusted and credible.