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Creating a national picture of the environment

For practical and cost reasons, we cannot measure all aspects of the environment. However, an indicator set needs to be more than a loose assortment of unconnected indicators if it is to provide an informative national picture of the state of the environment.

In selecting the core national environmental indicators and how they would be monitored, the Ministry for the Environment considered:

  • standard international criteria for indicator selection – for example, whether the indicator was:

    • relevant to policy
    • measurable at a reasonable cost
    • analytically valid and scientifically defensible
    • environmentally informative
    • cost-effective
    • easily understood
  • what data and information are available for national-level reporting in New Zealand

  • the information needs of New Zealand environmental managers and policy-makers.

As noted earlier, the primary objective of this report is to use the set of core national environmental indicators to present a national picture of environmental conditions in New Zealand. This national picture will highlight for decision-makers and environmental managers the aspects of our environment that have come under particular pressure and require priority attention.

Many of the findings in this report will not surprise decision-makers. Anecdotally, we already know many of the pressures on the New Zealand environment and the particular aspects of the environment that are most at risk.

However, by reporting against the indicators, we have been able to present quantitative data at the national level, in some cases for the first time, to support this anecdotal knowledge.