MfE’s Our Land 2018 Report Highlights NZ’s Natural Resource Planning Problem

20 April 2018

The New Zealand Planning Institute welcomes MfE’s report Our Land 2018 released 19th April 2018.

Our Land 2018 reports on the state of the soil, and the state of indigenous biodiversity and ecosystems. NZPI appreciates it is evidence based reporting. Its aim is to provide an overview of condition, and changes over time, to support decision-making at all levels of society.

The report contains more detailed evidence of changes and increases to natural resource management problems in New Zealand – mostly in the rural and agricultural environment, but also in the urban environment because of its expansion over scarce horticultural lands.

The Environmental Reporting Act 2015 (the Act) sets the scope of this report. The Act requires the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ to report on the state of the environment, the pressures affecting its state, and how this impacts on aspects of environmental and human well-being. This includes ecological integrity, public health, economy, te ao Māori (Māori world view), culture, and recreation. The report does not aim to identify the drivers of pressures, nor the appropriate responses to reduce or moderate pressures.

Our Land 2018 is not the mechanism to identify the drivers and pressures that cause those natural resource problems, and nor can it suggest responses to fix them. The current planning system is one of the tools for considering how those tensions and different values are reconciled, at a national level and through district and regional planning documents. New information contained in Our Land 2018 could justify more direct policy direction regarding some challenges being faced when land use changes, e.g. tensions between urban growth and loss of productive soils.

However effective engagement with many natural resource problems and possible responses to them are currently outside the scope of NZ’s planning system.

NZPI notes that the Government has signaled freshwater resource quality as a priority for this term of Government. NZPI suggests that the state of the country’s land resource is often linked with water, and is also of considerable concern, and requires an equally evidence-based examination of the drivers and pressures that are causing it, and the establishment of a commensurate and appropriate regulatory response that reconciles environmental aspirations with economic growth.