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Message to our readers

He taura whiri kotahi mai anō te kopunga tai no i te pu au
From the source to the mouth of the sea all things are joined together as one

Our freshwater environments support our way of life – water sustains our agriculture, industries, tourism, and the health and well-being of people and communities. For Māori, fresh water is a taonga and fundamental to the cultural identity of iwi.

Ki uta ki tai (from the mountains to the sea) recognises the movement of water through the landscape and the numerous interactions it may have on its journey. Fully appreciating this helps us understand the true impact of what we do in the environment. If water quality is degraded at one point, it will be felt downstream. Similarly if it is enhanced, the value will resonate in other places.

New Zealand is fortunate to have plenty of fresh water, but like the rest of the world, it is becoming increasingly clear our natural resources are limited if we continue to use them in the same way we have done. Good science, data, and information have the potential to transform the impact we have – especially if we are committed to increasing the value we get from our primary industry-based economy and supporting our growing population.

Environmental reporting is about unleashing the power of data to benefit the environment and people. Our environmental reporting series provides a national picture of our environment while acknowledging the significance of regional and local variation. This helps us see where the greatest pressures are and where we are performing well so we can learn from each other and lift New Zealand’s environmental performance as a whole.

Our fresh water 2017 is the first dedicated report on fresh water in New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series and will be a baseline for tracking change over time. A key takeaway from this report is the need to get better at collecting and reporting consistent data on fresh water. We present a story with the information we have, but there are things we inherently know are an issue, but we lack the quantitative evidence to show exactly how these affect the freshwater environment.

Based on the data we do have, we know many of our native freshwater species are under pressure, water quality varies across the country, and the way we use our land impacts our fresh water.

It will take time and collaboration with others to get the reliable, well-structured, and relevant statistics we need, and we are continually looking at ways to improve data for future reports. But we can’t wait for perfect information to make decisions.

We hope this report helps New Zealanders better understand our fresh water, supports informed discussions, and ultimately leads to good decisions about freshwater priorities and management.                                                                 

Vicky Robertson                                                           Liz MacPherson        
Secretary for the Environment                                     Government Statistician