Chapter 1. Environmental performance: Trends and recent developments1

New Zealand’s population enjoys a high environmental quality of life, although strong economic growth has intensified energy and resource use and exerted increasing environmental pressures. This chapter examines the country’s progress in decoupling economic activity from environmental pressures, focusing on the period since 2000. It presents the key socio-economic developments and reviews New Zealand’s progress in moving towards i) an energy-efficient and low-carbon economy; ii) resource efficiency in material consumption waste management; iii) sustainable management of the natural asset base; and iv) a high environmental quality of life for its citizens.


1. Introduction

New Zealand is a remote island state in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising two main islands (the North and South Islands) and many smaller islands. It is one of the most dynamic economies in the OECD. Since 2000, vigorous economic growth has helped raise the living standards of the small, but increasing, population. Natural resources have been a pillar of this growth, with agriculture, forestry, fishery and tourism accounting for a larger share of gross domestic product (GDP) and exports than in many OECD member countries. At the same time, the natural environment is deeply rooted in the country’s cultural identity. Environmental quality of life is generally high, but the strong reliance on natural resources, along with rising income and consumption, has resulted in increased emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and some air pollutants, higher waste generation and stronger pressures on freshwater and biodiversity.

This chapter provides an overview of New Zealand’s main achievements, as well as remaining challenges on the path towards green growth and sustainable development. Drawing on indicators from national and international sources, it reviews progress against national policy goals, as well as international commitments and targets, focusing on the period since 2000. To the extent possible, it compares the state of the environment and key environmental trends with those of other OECD member countries. The chapter sketches out major policy developments in relevant environmental sectors, including air, climate, waste, water and biodiversity.

2. Key economic and social developments

2.1. Economic structure and performance

New Zealand is a small, open and fast growing economy. The highly efficient agricultural sector continues to be a mainstay of the economy and to dominate the country’s exports; it accounted for 7% of value added in 2015, more than three times the OECD average (Figure 1.1). New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of dairy products and sheep meat. Dairy and other animal products and meat accounted for about 40% of total goods exports in 2014 (with dairy products alone representing nearly three-quarters of these exports). Fast rising milk prices spurred the conversion of land mostly from sheep and beef farming to dairy in the last two decades (Chapter 4). New Zealand is also among the largest exporters of forestry products in the OECD. Overall, in 2014, wood products accounted for 7% of exports.

Figure 1.1. The New Zealand economy is growing faster than the OECD area

New Zealand’s economy has a sizable and expanding service sector, accounting for 71% of GDP in 2015, some large-scale manufacturing industries (notably aluminium and metal production, and food processing) and high-tech manufacturing (Figure 1.1). The diverse, and sometimes spectacular, landscapes underpin the growing film industry and tourism sectors. The number of overseas visitors increased by about 13% over 2012-15, and is expected to grow further. In 2015, tourism accounted for nearly 5% of GDP, 7% of employment and 17% of total export revenue (second only to revenue from dairy exports) (Statistics NZ, 2016a).

New Zealand’s economy grew by about 50% in real terms in 2000-15, faster than the OECD average (Figure 1.1). Exports have been the main engine of this growth. Further impulse came from the construction sector, given the reconstruction activities following the 2011 earthquake that destroyed large parts of the city of Christchurch.2 Residential and infrastructure building in Auckland have also enjoyed sustained growth in response to strong population growth and housing demand (OECD, 2015a; also see Indicator 2.2 and Chapter 5). The strong economic expansion helped reduce unemployment to 5.8% in 2015, well below the OECD average (see Basic Statistics). After peaking to 3.4% in 2015, annual growth is expected to decelerate to about 3% per year in 2016/17 due to the decline of post-earthquake reconstruction activities, the decrease in the agricultural output caused by severe droughts and the decline in dairy prices (OECD, 2016a, 2015a).3 Bottlenecks in housing, urban infrastructure and skills, inequalities in living standards and rising environmental pressures pose further risks to sustaining growth (OECD, 2016a, 2015a).

The country’s fiscal position is strong. Government debt is low compared to other OECD member countries and the government budget is nearly balanced. Government spending and revenue are below the respective OECD averages (see Basic Statistics). The central government budget for environmental protection activities represented about 1% of total government expenditure in 2015 (Chapter 3). In 2014, revenue from environmentally related taxes amounted to 1.3% of GDP and 4.2% of total tax revenue, well below the corresponding OECD averages (see Basic Statistics; Chapter 3).

2.2. Well-being and quality of life

Sustained economic growth has helped further improve the well-being of New Zealand’s small, but increasing, population. Between 2000 and 2015, New Zealand’s population increased by 19%, partly owing to large net immigration flows (at rates of around 1% of the total population per year). In 2015, total population was 4.6 million, about three-quarters of which is of European descent. Maori, the second largest ethnic group accounting for 16% of the population, have a deep cultural relationship with the environment (Box 1.1). Other major ethnic groups include Asian and Pacific peoples (Statistics NZ, 2015a). Population is projected to reach about 5 million in 2025 and 5.8 million in 2050 (Statistics NZ, 2015b).

Box 1.1. Maori culture and the natural environment

Maori have a deep spiritual and cultural relationship with the entire landscape of New Zealand that is based on a holistic view of the environment. Traditional values such as whakapapa (ancestral lineage) place Maori in an environmental context with all flora and fauna, natural resources and ecological systems. Kaitiakitanga (guardianship of natural resources by Maori, in accordance with custom and tradition) defines the role of Maori as temporary guardians of the richness of all life and matter. Maori recognise that privileges bestowed by the environment go hand-in-hand with the responsibility to maintain it for future generations.

Maori land amounts to about 15 000 km2, or about 6% of the total land area. Most Maori land is in the north, centre and east of the North Island. Ownership of that land is divided into 2.7 million interests (ownership records), a figure comparable to the number of interests for the remaining part of the country. On average, there are 98 owners per Maori land block; a block average size is 0.5 km2 (Maori Land Court, 2016).

Maori continue to assert claims of ownership and customary rights over natural resources within their tribal areas through the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, which handles claims by Maori that the government has breached the treaty. Maori values are systematically taken into account by decision makers in New Zealand and have a strong influence on natural resource management (Chapter 2).

Source: Maori Land Court (2016); OECD (2007).

New Zealand’s citizens enjoy high living standards, with all the components of the Better Life Index above the OECD average, with the exception of “income and wealth” (Figure 1.2). Per capita income increased by 25% in 2000-15, nearly closing the gap to the OECD average and further reducing regional disparities.4 Yet, as in many other countries, income inequality and poverty have increased. Income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient) increased from below the OECD average in the mid-1980s to slightly above it in the mid-2010s (Figure 1.3; see Basic Statistics). This was largely due to increases in the inequality of market incomes, but also in part to policy reforms that reduced the redistributive capacity of the tax-benefit system (with lower progressivity of the tax system and social benefits). The poverty rate (measured as the number of people whose income is less than half of the median household income) is about 10%, in line with the OECD average. Nonetheless, child poverty is a concern,5 and an increasing share of the population report they cannot afford to buy enough food (OECD, 2014; Simpson et al., 2015).

Poverty concerns are linked to the rising burden of housing costs on low-income households (OECD, 2015a). Housing costs represent on average almost one-fourth of household disposable income, the eighth highest value in the OECD. Rapid population growth and a low responsiveness of supply have led to housing constraints and a sharp rise in housing prices, notably in Auckland. The largest New Zealand city and major economic hub, Auckland attracted most of the immigration flows and accounted for one-third of the country’s total population growth in 2000-15 (Statistics NZ, 2016b). Some other major cities have been experiencing similar pressures, as well as transport, water and waste infrastructure bottlenecks (Chapter 5).

Figure 1.2. Well-being perception is generally higher in New Zealand than in the OECD

Figure 1.3. Income inequality is slightly above the OECD average

New Zealand stands out in many other dimensions of life satisfaction, according to the Better Life Index (Figure 1.2). It scores the highest for social network support and health status, and performs well in terms of education and skills. Life expectancy at birth is higher than the OECD average and has improved over time (see Basic Statistics). The level of education attainment of the population is generally high. More than a third of the working-age population (25-64 years) has completed tertiary education, in line with the OECD average (see Basic Statistics). However, disparities persist in health and education outcomes. A higher proportion of Maori and Pacific Islands peoples live in chronic poverty, underperform in employment and education, are overrepresented in prison and as victims of crime, and have poorer health and access to care (OECD, 2015a).

New Zealanders are also more satisfied with environmental quality (as measured by exposure to fine particles and local water quality) than the OECD average (Figure 1.2). Regular surveys since 2000 by Lincoln University confirm the general satisfaction of New Zealanders with environmental quality and the management of natural resources. However, according to the latest survey, about half of respondents are concerned with water pollution and noise (Figure 1.4). In fact, water-related issues were rated as the most important environmental issue facing New Zealand, reflecting deteriorating water quality in some regions (Indicator 5.5; Chapter 4). Two-thirds of respondents were concerned or very concerned with the effects of climate change, both individually and for society as a whole (Figure 1.4).

Figure 1.4. Water is a major environmental concern to New Zealand citizens

3. Transition towards a low-carbon and energy-efficient economy

3.1. Energy structure and intensity

New Zealand is endowed with a wide variety of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. Its gas reserves are sufficient to entirely meet domestic consumption. New Zealand is a net exporter of coal, although parts of the large mining sites are closing down.6 It exports most of the domestically produced, high quality oil, but remains a net importer of oil (IEA, forthcoming).7 Located along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the country has world-class geothermal resources, mostly in the North Island, while most of the hydropower resources are in the South Island.

New Zealand has a clean, low-carbon energy mix in international comparison. In 2015, renewable energy sources accounted for 40% of the total primary energy supply (TPES), among the highest shares in the OECD. Oil accounts for a third of TPES, with natural gas and solid fuels making up the remainder (Figure 1.5). Renewable primary energy supply increased by about 60% since 2000, mainly driven by an increase in geothermal power generation (see below); over the same period, solar and wind energy supply more than tripled, although starting from a very low base. Almost 60% of New Zealand’s renewable primary energy supply comes from geothermal sources (the second highest share in OECD after Iceland), followed by hydro, biofuels, solar and wind (Figure 1.5).

Figure 1.5. A high and increasing share of energy is sourced from renewables

Renewables accounted for 80% of electricity generation in 2015, up from 72% in 2000. This is the third highest share in the OECD (Figure 1.5). Hydropower has historically accounted for the bulk of electricity output from renewables (more than two-thirds in 2015; see Figure 1.5). Geothermal has increased to reach 18% of power generation, compensating for reduced electricity generation from natural gas and coal (which will come to an end by 2018). In 2008, New Zealand set the target of producing 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Taking into account projected growth in power demand, renewable generation levels would need to increase by about 20% (IEA, forthcoming). The target is expected to be met without direct government intervention or financial support, as many renewables are cost-competitive with thermal generation in New Zealand (Chapter 3).

New Zealand remains among the ten most energy-intensive OECD economies (Figure 1.6). Despite the departure of large industry from the country, energy intensity (TPES per unit of GDP) remained virtually stable between 2005 and 2012, and then started to rise moderately. As a result, New Zealand has not met the target of reducing energy intensity by 1.3% per year, as set by the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2011-16 (IEA, forthcoming; see Chapter 3). Between 2000 and 2014, energy consumption increased rapidly in the services, agriculture and transport sectors; energy use in industry (mainly food processing and non-metallic minerals) has risen since 2010. Transport and industry together account for two-thirds of final energy use, followed by households and services (Figure 1.6).

Figure 1.6. Primary energy intensity remains high in international comparisons

3.2. Transport

Transport is the main energy user and a major source of GHG emissions. Increased transport demand associated with sustained GDP growth has resulted in rising energy use and GHG emissions from the sector (Figures 1.6and 1.8; Indicator 3.3). As in all OECD member countries, road transport accounts for the bulk of energy use for the transport sector (over 90% in 2014). Motor vehicles are the primary transport mode for both goods and passengers, reflecting New Zealand’s dispersed population, a history of low-density urban development and the insufficient development of alternative transport modes, notably rail and public transport. Given its geographical remoteness, New Zealand relies on aviation to connect to the rest of the world, and between islands and distant regions. Domestic aviation accounts for nearly 6% of energy use for the transport sector, one of the highest shares among OECD member countries.

Motor vehicle and car ownership rates are the highest in the OECD: 85 vehicles (including trucks) and 66 passenger cars per 100 inhabitants. The number of vehicles has increased considerably (by 65%) since 2000. The number of diesel vehicles, which emit more particulate matter and nitrogen oxides per litre of fuel burned than vehicles running on petrol, continue to increase (notably light diesel vehicles). In 2014, diesel vehicles made up 17% of the fleet, up from 12% in 2000. The number of electric (EVs) and hybrid vehicles boomed in 2014-16, although they still represent about 0.5% of total light vehicle fleet (Chapter 3).

The mix of vehicle standards and taxes does not provide sufficient incentives to renew the fleet towards cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicle technologies (IEA, forthcoming; Chapter 3). New Zealand does not have mandatory standards for vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions, but it applies vehicle exhaust regulations, fuel economy labelling for light vehicles and a voluntary heavy vehicle fuel efficiency programme. Electric vehicles are exempt from the road user charge, but otherwise vehicle taxes are not differentiated according to vehicles’ environmental and energy performance (Chapter 3).

The vehicle fleet is relatively old and emission-intensive. The car fleet consists mainly of re-sold foreign cars, primarily from Japan, as there is no car manufacturing in New Zealand. The average age of the car fleet is 14 years (and 17 years for trucks and buses). The average fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet has stabilised at 10 litres/100vkm, compared to 8 litres/100vkm in Japan (IEA, forthcoming). The average CO2 emissions per kilometre of newly registered vehicles declined between 2005 and 2014 from 223 to 184.8 gCO2/km, but remains above the average of the European Union (119.6 gCO2/km in 2015) and of Japan (143 gCO2/km in 2013). As a result, New Zealand has the highest or among the highest road-transport emissions per capita of nitrogen and sulphur oxides, carbon monoxide, non-methane volatile organic compounds and CO2 in the OECD (Figure 1.7).

Figure 1.7. New Zealand’s road transport emissions are among the highest in the OECD

3.3. Climate change mitigation and adaptation

GHG emission trends

New Zealand has an unusual emissions profile, with nearly half of its emissions coming from agriculture (Figure 1.8). This is the highest share in the OECD, reflecting the importance of agriculture, including food and livestock production, in the economy. Most of the agriculture-related emissions are biological emissions, mainly methane (CH4) from ruminant cattle (enteric fermentation) and nitrous oxides (N2O) from animal waste and fertilisers. Overall, methane and N2O emissions from all sources contribute 54% of total emissions, compared to 16% in the OECD as a whole. Transport, mainly on roads, is the second largest emitting sector; it accounts for 17% of emissions. GHG emissions from power generation account for a smaller share of total emissions than in most other OECD member countries, as a result of the large share of renewables in the energy mix (Figures 1.5and 1.8).

Figure 1.8. New Zealand has a unique GHG emissions profile

GHG emissions have continued to rise: by 2014, gross emissions (i.e. excluding land use, land-use change and forestry, LULUCF) had increased by 6% from 2000 levels and by 23% from 1990 levels. The LULUCF sector contributed to removing more than a third of New Zealand’s GHG emissions in 2000-14. However, removals have declined in recent years as more planted forests have reached harvest maturity (MfE, 2015). In 2014, taking into account emission removals from LULUCF, net GHG emissions were more than 20% above 2000 levels and about 54% above 1990 levels (Figure 1.9).

The main drivers of GHG emission growth were the agricultural sector (primarily due to increased dairy production and fertiliser use), road transport, manufacturing industries (particularly minerals and metals, chemicals and food processing) and construction (MfE, 2016a). In the agriculture sector, increased productivity has resulted in a considerable decline of GHG emissions per unit of farm product, but overall emissions have grown, and are projected to continue to grow, because of increased total output. Despite the increasing waste generation, emissions from waste management decreased, owing to better management systems of landfilled waste (improved methane recovery) (Figure 1.9). While emissions have grown at a lower rate than the economy (+ 44%) and the population (+ 17%) in 2000-14, New Zealand’s gross GHG emissions per capita and per unit of GDP remain among the five highest in the OECD (Figure 1.9).

Figure 1.9. GHG emissions continue to increase

GHG emission reduction targets and mitigation policy

While New Zealand accounts for a minor share of global GHG emissions (0.16%), it has been active in international discussions about climate change, acknowledging that all small emitters together generate 30% of global emissions and need to share responsibility for their reduction (MfE, 2016b). The 2002 Climate Change Response Act (and its subsequent amendments) is the framework legislation addressing the country’s obligations in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand committed to reducing its average annual net GHG emissions over the first commitment period (2008-12) to 1990 levels. Despite the increase in gross GHG emissions, the country over-achieved its Kyoto Protocol target by using its forest sinks and international carbon credits (Chapter 3). New Zealand did not make a commitment for 2013-20 under the Kyoto Protocol, but it set an unconditional target to reduce emissions by 5% below 1990 levels by 2020, as well as a long-term target of a 50% emission reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. Projections indicate New Zealand is on track to meet the 2020 target, using a combination of forestry removals, domestic abatement and the surplus Kyoto units acquired during the first commitment period (MfE, 2016c; see Figure 1.9).

In preparation of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, New Zealand announced its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to reduce GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (Figure 1.9). This is equivalent to a reduction of 11% with respect to 1990 levels. The government ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on 4 October 2016. New Zealand intends to achieve the 2030 target through a combination of domestic mitigation actions, emission removals from forestry and purchase of international carbon credits. The expected contribution of each domestic sector to emission reductions and the relative role of international carbon credits and carbon sinks are not yet clear. Depending on the intended use of forestry sinks and carbon credits, achieving the 2030 target may effectively increase gross domestic GHG emissions. In addition, this target is not on the path to New Zealand’s long-term goal, which would require reducing emissions by 45% below 2005 levels (or by 30% below 1990 levels) by 2030 (Climate Action Tracker, 2016).

New Zealand’s climate mitigation policy has largely relied on forest sinks and carbon pricing via the Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS). As Chapter 3 discusses, the system has had limited effectiveness, however, and needs to be strengthened. Expanding forest plantations remains a viable option to offset emissions in the short to medium term while the other sectors develop and adopt new low-carbon technology. However, forest sinks cannot be the only option, as eventually all available land-based sinks, including forests, become saturated. A few other measures are in place to promote energy efficiency; use of renewable energy; and reduction of emissions from transport, including voluntary energy performance standards for building, fuel economy labelling for vehicles and tax incentives for electric vehicles. In the agriculture sector, mitigation options have focused on increasing the productivity per animal and overall efficiency of farms, as well as on investment in research in new technology to reducing biological emissions (Chapter 3).

Given its largely decarbonised power generation sector and the weight of agricultural emissions, New Zealand faces particular challenges in mitigating its domestic GHG emissions. While potential technological solutions for reducing agriculture-related biological emissions exist (e.g. nitrification inhibitors and productivity-enhancing farm management practice), further research is needed to develop them; one or two decades may be required to reach commercial viability (Royal Society of New Zealand, 2016). As this occurs, other measures such as regulations or pricing instruments are needed to encourage farmers to adopt cutting-edge technology.

Short- and medium-term mitigation options are available in all other emitting sectors, starting with further reducing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing the efficiency of energy use, especially in building, industry and transport (IEA, forthcoming; PCE, 2015a; see also Chapter 3). However, there is a need to improve information on the costs and abatement potential of mitigation options (Royal Society of New Zealand, 2016). New Zealand should identify the expected contribution of each sector to the achievement of the 2030 and 2050 targets, and design a comprehensive package of climate mitigation measures to complement the NZ ETS (Chapter 3). In September 2016, the government announced the establishment of three expert groups on agricultural biological emissions, forestry and adaptation to build the evidence base on these issues (MfE, 2016b).

Impact of climate change and adaptation policy

According to the latest national climate projections, average temperatures in New Zealand will increase by about 0.7-1°C by 2040 and by 0.7-3°C by 2090, depending on the global emission scenario (MfE, 2016d). The temperature increase is projected to bring more intense rainfall to most areas of the country (notably where average annual rainfall also increases, such as the West Coast of the South Island), raising the risk of river flooding. At the same time, most areas of the country are projected to see more dry days per year, while droughts become more frequent and intense. Droughts represent one of the biggest risks to energy security, given the strong reliance on hydropower for energy supply (IEA, forthcoming). New Zealand is also vulnerable to sea level rise, as most cities are within a few kilometres of the coast.8 Sea level rise is expected to cause more frequent and severe coastal flooding and more widespread soil erosion (a longstanding problem in some coastal areas); groundwater linked to the sea is also expected to rise, potentially causing groundwater to become brackish (PCE, 2015b).

Under the Resource Management Act, local authorities are required to consider the effects of climate change in their planning decisions. The central government supports this process by providing guidance (e.g. through provisions in the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement) and information (e.g. through a four-year research programme on community vulnerability). However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE, 2015b) noted that better direction and guidance are needed on the critical issue of sea level rise, including on the evaluation, planning and data gathering for rising sea levels, the assessment of coastal hazards and the elaboration of coastal plans with local communities. The government has invested in building the evidence base for climate change adaptation and prepared resilience and vulnerability assessments for the tourism and transport sectors. New Zealand should develop vulnerability assessments for all major economic sectors and translate these into policy strategies and responses. No national adaptation strategy has been developed to date.

4. Transition towards a resource-efficient economy

4.1. Material consumption

Domestic material consumption (DMC)9 decreased by 13% over 2008-12, driven by the economic slowdown following the global economic crisis and structural changes in the economy (with stronger growth in the service sector). The decrease in DMC helped bring down the material intensity of the economy (DMC/GDP) and per capita consumption, but New Zealand remains more resource-intensive than the OECD average (Figure 1.10). This reflects the importance of agriculture and forestry to the economy. In 2012, biomass accounted for nearly 50% of domestic consumption, 60% of domestic extraction and 80% of material resource exports (compared to respective OECD averages of around 20%). Recent years saw a notable increase in wood extraction and exports, with increases of 40% and 80%, respectively, over 2008-12 (OECD, 2016b). The recent strong increase in the construction of housing and infrastructure will likely boost the consumption of construction minerals.

Figure 1.10. Material intensities improved, but remain high in international comparison

4.2. Waste management

New Zealand lacks comprehensive, timely and internationally comparable data on waste management. Reliable data are only available for waste volumes disposed of in certain landfills; no data are available on recycling or other types of waste recovery.10 Available data suggest the generation of municipal solid waste (MSW) has increased alongside population, GDP and private final consumption (Figure 1.11). Per capita MSW generation appears to be among the highest in the OECD. It is estimated that the majority of MSW is landfilled. All local authorities offer drop-off collection services for recycling, and some have adopted recycling requirements or quantity-based waste charges, which helped reduce waste volumes going to landfill. However, many authorities still lack strong incentives to change household behaviour (see Chapter 3and 5).

Figure 1.11. Landfilled municipal waste increased alongside private final consumption

The 2008 Waste Minimisation Act established a levy on waste disposed of in landfills, with the aim to generate funding to local governments, help minimise waste and promote alternative forms of waste treatment. To ease implementation, the levy was limited to landfills that accept municipal waste, with the intention to expand it to other landfills over time. However, this has not yet happened. In 2013, the majority of landfilled waste was disposed of at non-levied landfills (which include cleanfills and temporary soil dumps) (Figure 1.11). The levy’s limited coverage, its relatively low level (NZD 10 per tonne) and the practice of levy avoidance hamper the instrument’s effectiveness (MfE, 2014a). New Zealand should extend the levy obligation to all relevant landfill types so as to reduce opportunities for levy avoidance and to provide greater incentives to minimise waste (see also Chapter 3). The Ministry for the Environment has commissioned a study to better understand the quantity and composition of waste disposed of at landfills. To encourage recycling among industry and businesses, the government has accredited 14 voluntary product stewardship schemes; however, the limited data on waste recovery make the evaluation of these schemes difficult. New Zealand has no national regulation for disposal of agricultural waste, despite the large size of the sector; it is one of the few OECD member countries without national regulation of hazardous waste management within the country (Chapter 2). The 2010 New Zealand Waste Strategy sets out the government’s long-term priorities for waste management andminimisation, but does not include any quantitative targets.

5. Natural asset base

5.1. Land use

With 17 inhabitants per square kilometre, New Zealand is a relatively sparsely populated country by OECD standards (see Basic Statistics). Forests and agricultural land cover about 40% of land area, respectively (Figure 1.12). The remaining land area is occupied by scrub land, wooded land, wet open land, bare rocks and glaciers, or else built-up. The past two decades saw noticeable increases in forest area, horticultural land and built-up area (Figure 1.12); the latter increased by 10% over 1996-12, reflecting a growing urban population (Chapter 5). In addition, high international dairy prices have encouraged land conversion from sheep and beef farming to dairy, mainly in the regions of Canterbury, Southland and Waikato (Figure 1.12; also see Chapter 4).

Figure 1.12. Cropland, planted forest and urban area increased

5.2. Forest resources

New Zealand’s forest area expands over more than 10 million ha. In 2013, forests covered 39% of total land area, the ninth-highest rate in the OECD. Natural forests cover 80% of total forest area (nearly one third of the country); the remaining 20% is planted forest. Total forested area has increased slightly since 2000, in part due to significant expansion of planted forests with exotic tree species. New Zealand offers grants for reforestation to address soil erosion; 55% of new planting since 2008 has received grants through either the East Coast Forestry Project or the Afforestation Grants Scheme. The inclusion of forestry into the NZ ETS has encouraged some investment in forest plantation (Indicator 3.3; Chapter 3). Nearly two-thirds of forests planted after 1989 have been voluntarily registered in the NZ ETS. The forestry sector is an important pillar of New Zealand’s economy: it contributes to approximately 3% of GDP, nearly 1% of employment and 7% of exports. Despite its small size, New Zealand is the world’s second largest exporter of industrial round wood (after the Russian Federation) (Government of New Zealand, 2014; FAO, 2016).

The ecological integrity of forest ecosystems is generally good, although pest, disease outbreaks and woody invasive species have emerged as concerns (Clifford et al., 2013). Nearly two-thirds (60%) of natural forest is protected in public conservation land, one of the highest shares in the OECD. Less than 0.1% of natural forest is harvested per year. Commercial timber from privately owned natural forest can only be harvested if sourced under sustainable forest management plans and permits; no harvesting is permitted on public conservation land (Government of New Zealand, 2014). The forest area certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme increased considerably over the last decade and reached 15% of total forest area in 2012 (FAO, 2016). In addition, initiatives have been launched to ensure sustainable forestry production of indigenous forest in private lands and in planted forest involving the Maori population, civil society and the business sector.

5.3. Fish resources

Total fish production has declined by 20% since 2000, driven by a gradual decline in fish catches. Aquaculture has been constantly growing (by 28% over 2000-14); it accounted for 20% of total fish production in 2014. New Zealand’s fish production relies mainly on deep water fishing and is highly export-oriented; the country exports about 90% of its seafood production (OECD, 2015b).

Commercial and customary fisheries have been primarily managed through a transferable quota system since 1986 (Chapter 3).11 With 100 species and 628 covered fish stocks, the system is one of the largest in the world (MPI, 2016), helping to reduce overfishing and maintain the fish stock at sustainable levels. Nevertheless, 17% of fish stocks (of known status) were deemed to be overfished in 2015; 6% were deemed to be collapsed (MPI, 2016). The Fisheries Act and the Fisheries 2030 strategy include environmental obligations and aim at strengthening environmental and economic performance of the sector. In addition, the Ministry for Primary Industry has made considerable efforts to monitor and enforce compliance with the regulation; large parts of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have been put under some form of protection (Indicator 5.4). Bycatch and the use of harmful fishing methods (notably seabed trawling) has therefore decreased over the past few years, but remain a pressure on marine species and seabirds. Little is known about the impact of aquaculture on the marine environment (MfE and Statistics NZ, 2015).

Following the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Claims Settlement Act of 1992, a suite of management tools has been introduced to recognise customary use and management practices of Maori in the exercise of non-commercial fishing rights. These include establishment of traditional fishing grounds (mataitai reserves) to provide for customary management practices and food gathering and exclude commercial fishers; adoption of local management practices for both commercial and non-commercial fishing in an area of particular significance to an iwi/hapu (so-called taiapure); and temporary closure of an area to fishing to enable the local indigenous community (Tangata Whenua) to exercise their customary rights.

5.4. Biodiversity

Biodiversity and threatened species

Due to its geographic location and its natural history (which evolved in the absence of mammalian predators), New Zealand has a unique wealth of biodiversity, with one of the world’s highest rates of endemic flora and fauna species.12 At the same time, New Zealand has one of the world’s highest shares of threatened species (Brown, 2016). About a quarter of native mammals, a third of birds, fish and reptiles and some 60% of native amphibians are threatened (Figure 1.13); some sources point to even higher risks of extinction.13 The risk of extinction worsened for 7% of indigenous species (59 of 799) between 2005 and 2011, while improving for 1.5% of these species. The main drivers of biodiversity loss are biological invasion, including by mammalian predators, weeds, pests and diseases; habitat removal and modifications; and pollution.

Figure 1.13. The share of threatened native flora and fauna species is high

While indigenous biodiversity has declined generally, efforts for species recovery have increased significantly since 2000. New Zealand is a global leader in species recovery programmes (such as offshore island management) and pest control methods. These efforts helped eradicate predators from more than 100 islands and improved the population status of some species (including the kiwi, brown teal, kokako and yellowhead). New Zealand has also increased efforts to suppress or eradicate invasive mammalian predators on the mainland, including through fenced bird sanctuaries and landscape-scale pest control, notably through aerial application of a toxin known as “1080” (sodium monofluoroacetate). The Predator Free New Zealand 2050 initiative, launched in mid-2016, aims to eradicate key pests responsible for biodiversity loss (rodents, mustelid and possums) by 2050. It foresees the establishment of a public-private partnership company to support the refinement of existing techniques (e.g. GPS-guided aerial application of 1080) and research in new techniques (e.g. self-resetting traps and predator-specific toxins) (DOC, 2016).

Better institutional collaboration across government agencies, including through establishment of the Natural Resources Sector (Chapter 2), improved the mainstreaming of biodiversity into sectoral policies, including agriculture. New Zealand has also strengthened collaboration with Maori communities, and successfully mobilised local communities and philanthropic partners to engage in biodiversity protection programmes (Brown, 2016). However, data limitations (particularly on the state of biodiversity on private lands), as well as lack of clarity and clear implementation pathways for biodiversity laws and policy goals, continue to hamper effective protection and sustainable use of biodiversity. Methods to protect indigenous biodiversity on private land are generally based on voluntarism (Brown, 2016, 2015). A National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity was proposed in 2011, but did not pass into law largely because of opposition from private landowners (Chapter 2). The government is planning to launch a stakeholder dialogue to develop a new National Policy Statement by late 2018. This is one component of the recently launched 2016-20 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which outlines planned actions to implement international targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Terrestrial protected areas

Terrestrial protected areas have increased by 15% since 2000 and covered almost one-third of New Zealand’s territory in 2014 (85 000 km2), a share significantly higher than in most other OECD member countries. Almost half of these areas fall within the most stringent categories of protection of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (i.e. nature reserve and wilderness areas, and national parks) (Figure 1.14), and prioritisation of ecosystems for conservation has improved. The Department of Conservation (DOC) provides extensive tracks, huts and other infrastructure within protected areas (public conservation land), many of which host natural attractions and spectacular landscapes. The number of international tourists visiting major national parks increased over the 2000s (Figure 1.14). In 2012, more than 1.7 million international visitors walked or trekked on public conservation land, more than twice as many as in 2000 (DOC, 2013). Walking and trekking are also the most popular activities undertaken by New Zealand tourists. Visitor numbers to national parks are expected to double over the next six years; this may increase pressures on ecosystems. Setting a precedent at the international scene, New Zealand granted legal personhood to a protected area in 2014 as a key part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiated between Tuhoe iwi and the Crown (Box 1.2).

Figure 1.14. New Zealand has large national parks, which attract an increasing number of tourists

Box 1.2. Te Urewera – granting a national park legal personhood

Te Urewera is a forested, sparsely populated area in the east of the North Island, which for centuries has been home to Ngai Tuhoe iwi (an indigenous tribe). Since 1954, a large part of this area has been protected as a national park. Up until 2014, Te Urewera was the largest national park on the North Island (covering more than 2 100 km2) and managed as Crown land by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

In 2014, the park was granted legal personhood under the Te Urewera Act. The act transformed the park into a unique legal entity named “Te Urewera” and provided it with “all the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a legal person”. The lands would remain protected, with public use like in national parks, but would maintain their own separate identity. They would be governed with Tuhoe involvement, thereby strengthening respect for Tuhoe cosmology and relationship with the lands. The Te Urewera Act shifted management responsibilities from the DOC to the Te Urewera Board, which comprises joint Tuhoe and Crown membership. The board can file lawsuits on behalf of Te Urewera and represent it in court.

The innovative concept of “legal personhood” was devised to break a stalemate over the question of ownership between the Tuhoe (who wished to retain their own sovereignty and control over their lands) and the government (which was unable to agree to transferring ownership of a national park to a tribe). Granting the area legal personality meant that nobody owns the park. As such, the Te Urewera Act may provide a precedent to settlement negotiations between other Maori/iwi and the Crown. In a similar spirit, the government and iwi have agreed to create a new legal entity for the Whanganui River (Chapter 4).

Source: Ruru (2014); Logan (2016).

Marine environment

New Zealand’s marine environment is one of the world’s most diverse. It encompasses both sub-Antarctic and sub-tropical waters and hosts a wide range of habitats and marine life. More than 17 000 marine species have been identified in New Zealand waters to date; and it is estimated that another 17 000 to 65 000 are yet to be identified. Most marine birds and more than one-quarter of marine mammals are threatened with extinction; population data for other marine organisms are limited (MfE and Statistics NZ, 2016). Fishing bycatch is decreasing, but remains a major pressure on the marine environment; other pressures include habitat modification or loss, pollution (including oil extraction waste), exotic species and competition for food from commercial fishing. Excess sedimentation and run-off from urban and agricultural land are the main cause for degrading coastal ecosystems. In addition, New Zealand’s oceans are becoming more acidic, affecting marine species and ecosystems; this trend is expected to continue with increasing CO2 emissions and climate change (MfE and Statistics NZ, 2016).

Marine protected areas

The network of marine areas under some form of protection has expanded to cover about 30% of New Zealand’s marine area (almost 1.3 million km2). In 2007, the government passed regulations closing nearly one-third of New Zealand’s EEZ to harmful fishing practices (e.g. dredging and bottom-trawling) to protect seabed biodiversity. However, many ecosystem types are represented in the marine protected area network only to a limited extent (Brown, 2015). The 2005 Marine Protected Areas Policy and Implementation Plan provided a framework for collaborative stakeholder-led processes to identify networks of possible marine reserves and close gaps in protection. However, by 2014, only three processes had been established. Stakeholder agreement has been difficult to achieve, which has been attributed to the limited array of protection options available under the 1971 Marine Reserves Act, as well as concerns of commercial industries (Brown, 2015). The government’s proposal of a new Marine Protected Areas Act aims to provide a wider variety of protection options and improves the process for establishing and managing marine reserves. However, it would apply only to territorial waters (as opposed to the entire EEZ).

5.5. Freshwater resources

Freshwater resources are crucial to New Zealand: they are home to a wide variety of indigenous flora and fauna, support key economic activities such as agriculture, hydropower generation and tourism, and are deeply rooted in the culture of the indigenous population (Chapter 4). The country has a natural abundance of freshwater and hence low water stress at the national level (see Basic Statistics). However, freshwater availability varies substantially across regions and seasons. On per capita terms, freshwater abstraction is significantly above the OECD average (see Basic Statistics), reflecting the importance of irrigated agriculture and hydropower generation, as well as a relatively small population. New Zealand ranks among the top five OECD member countries for the highest rates of water abstraction for both agricultural purposes and public water supply (Figure 1.15).14

Figure 1.15. Per capita water abstraction is high in international comparison

Total consented water abstraction increased by 6% over 2006-10, driven mainly by growing water intakes for manufacturing (+26%) and irrigation (+11%). The latter reflects a continuous increase in the actual irrigated area (it has increased by almost 50% since 2002). Irrigation accounts for three-quarters of consumptive freshwater use (Chapter 4). The abstraction pressure is uneven across regions, with Canterbury, Southland and Otago alone accounting for about 90% of estimated water use. In these and some other parts of the country, water demand is exceeding what is available and sustainable, leading to increased competition among users and pressure on freshwater ecosystems (Chapter 4). Population growth, projected irrigation expansion and climate change are likely to further increase pressure on the resource. In recognition of the need to prevent further over-allocation and phase out existing over-allocation, the government has embarked on a process of reforming national freshwater policy (Chapter 4).

Water quality is variable, depending on the dominant land use in a catchment (MfE and Statistics NZ, 2015). Point-source water pollution from industrial and urban wastewater discharges has declined. However, water quality in some regions has suffered from diffuse pollution associated with the steady expansion of intensive farming and urbanisation. The pollutants of most concern are nutrients, pathogens and sediment (PCE, 2012). In particular, nitrogen levels from diffuse agricultural sources continued to increase, causing environmental and public health concerns. In recognition of the need to safeguard water quality from further deterioration, recent government freshwater policy reform requires water quality limits to be set in every catchment to maintain or improve water quality (Chapter 4).

Agricultural inputs and nutrient balances

The expansion of intensive agriculture (primarily dairy production) has triggered an increase in consumption of nitrogen fertilisers, which outpaced the growth in agricultural production. As a consequence, the nitrogen intensity (fertiliser used per agricultural area) has increased by 25% since 2002 (OECD, 2013a). Use of phosphorus fertilisers has decreased, albeit at a slower rate than in many other OECD member countries. Sales of pesticides increased by 22% over 2002-09, mainly driven by the increase in herbicides for livestock husbandry and forestry. Pesticides have been detected in 17% of sampled groundwater wells, though only one well exceeded the maximum acceptable value for drinking water (Humphries and Close, 2015). The area of organic agricultural land has more than doubled since 2005, driven by growing overseas demand; however, it remains small (0.9% of agricultural land in 2014) compared to the OECD average (more than 2%) (FiBL and IFOAM, 2016).

Increasing fertiliser use, and the increasing number of livestock, is reflected in increasing nitrogen levels in agricultural soils, and consequently surface and groundwater bodies (Figure 1.16; also see Chapter 4). Over 2000-10, the nitrogen balance15 increased both in absolute terms (25%) and in terms of quantities applied per unit of agricultural land (41%). Not only is this the largest increase in the OECD, it contrasts with declining trends in most other countries (OECD, 2013). Like nitrogen, the phosphorous surplus is among the highest in the OECD (OECD, 2013). However, phosphorous levels in soils and water bodies have decreased over the past decade, reflecting reduced phosphorus fertiliser use, riparian planting, stock exclusion from waterways and soil conservation efforts. Recent government freshwater policy reform requires water quality limits to be set for all catchments to ensure that freshwater quality is maintained or improved (Chapter 4).

Figure 1.16. Livestock and fertiliser use are driving up the nitrogen balance in soils

6. Environmental quality of life

6.1. Air emissions and air quality

Air emissions

New Zealand stands out as one of the few OECD member countries that saw emissions of major air pollutants increase since 2000, although at a slower pace than population and GDP growth.16 Transport and industry were the main drivers behind the increase. In 2014, New Zealand ranked within the top ten OECD member countries showing the highest emissions intensities for nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), both in per capita and per GDP terms (OECD, 2016c). No estimates on national emissions of particulate matter (PM) are available, even though this pollutant is of most concern in New Zealand. PM emissions from wood- and coal-based home heating – the main sources – are estimated to have decreased by 24% between 2006 and 2010. The decrease was driven by a gradual switch from wood and coal to electricity- and gas-based heating systems, national wood burner emission and efficiency standards, the replacement of older wood burners and better insulation systems (MfE and Statistics NZ, 2015). Recent modelling suggests that PM emissions from on-road transport have decreased since 2001 (alongside other pollutants), following the introduction of standards for vehicle fuels and improvements in the vehicle fleet.17

Air quality

Air quality in New Zealand is generally good by international standards. According to OECD estimates, the annual average exposure of New Zealand citizens to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is among the lowest in the OECD (Figure 1.17). This reflects the country’s economic structure (i.e. reliance on natural resource use and a small heavy industry base), as well as geographic and climatic conditions (most cities benefit from strong winds that help disperse emitted air pollutants). However, even low exposure to air pollution can significantly damage human health. OECD calculations indicate the number of premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution in New Zealand could nearly double by 2060, while the costs of premature deaths could nearly triple (Figure 1.17).

Figure 1.17. Air quality is good in international comparison, but health impacts are projected to rise

Annual average PM10 concentrations fell by 8% over 2006-12 following adoption of the 2004 National Environmental Standards (NESs) for ambient air quality, as well as for regulating major sources of air pollution.18 Lower emissions from home heating and road transport were the main drivers behind improved air quality. In 2012, most monitoring sites (87%) remained below the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline for average annual particulate matter (PM10) exposure, including in the population centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (Chapter 5). However, half of monitored sites exceeded the NES for short-term PM10 exposure, mostly due to the burning of wood and coal for domestic heating. National air quality standards are also exceeded in urban areas near busy roads (MfE, 2014b). Monitoring of PM10 pollution improved, but only a few sites in major cities monitor concentrations of fine particular matter (PM2.5), which have greater health impacts. In contrast to many other OECD member countries, New Zealand has no national standards on PM2.5 concentrations. A review of the NESs particulate matter provisions is due to be completed in 2017.

6.2. Ozone depletion: Contribution and vulnerability

New Zealand has ratified the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the related Montreal Protocol combating ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). The country successfully phased out ODS consumption through a progressive reduction on the permits to import substances not produced domestically. Methyl bromide, used mainly as pesticides in crops, was phased out in 2007; it can now only be used for quarantine and pre‐shipment fumigation. The phase-out of hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs) was completed in January 2015, in advance of the 2030 international target (MfE, 2013).

New Zealand is vulnerable to ozone-layer depletion due to its proximity to Antarctica, where this phenomenon is more pronounced. The country has high levels of ultraviolet (UV) in international comparisons; extreme UV thresholds are often exceeded.19 The reduction of the ozone concentration, and consequent over-exposure to UV radiation, can have severe implications for natural ecosystems and for human health, notably skin cancers and cataracts. New Zealand has the highest incidence and mortality rates of melanoma cancer in the world; it was the fourth most-common cause of cancer and the sixth most-common cause of death in the country (Figure 1.18).

Figure 1.18. New Zealand’s rates of melanoma incidence and mortality are the highest in the world

6.3. Access to water supply, sanitation and wastewater treatment

In 2014, 82% of the population was connected to public wastewater treatment plants, an increase of 1.2% since 2000; an additional 10% was connected to independent treatment (OECD, 2016d). Urban expansion and associated infrastructure development drove the increase in connection rates. Recent data on access to wastewater treatment by treatment type are not available; in 2000, the connection rates of the population to tertiary and secondary wastewater treatment were 40% and 26% respectively, followed by 14% for primary treatment (OECD, 2015c).

6.4. Environmental quality of housing

New Zealand’s building stock is often poorly insulated and thus energy performance is relatively poor; nearly two-thirds of homes were built before adoption of requirements for thermal insulation in new homes in 1978. In addition, the residential housing stock is frequently damp, cold in winter and mouldy: about a quarter of homeowners and half of renters report problems with dampness or mould. These issues are more frequently reported by some population subgroups, namely people in one-parent families with children, people of prime working age, and Maori and Pacific peoples (Statistics NZ, 2015c). Dampness and mould have detrimental effects on public health; New Zealand has the highest rate of respiratory illness in the OECD, with one out of four people suffering from asthma (IEA, forthcoming). Despite significant government efforts in recent years, an estimated 600 000 homes remain inadequately insulated, which tend to be occupied by low-income families. Better insulation of houses would bring significant health benefits, alongside environmental benefits associated with energy savings (Chapter 3).

Recommendations on climate change, air, waste and biodiversity

Climate change

  • Develop a strategic plan for the achievement of the 2030 climate mitigation target; identify the expected contribution of each sector to domestic emission mitigation and the anticipated reliance on international carbon markets; improve the knowledge base on the available mitigation options, their costs and trade-offs.

  • Develop vulnerability assessments for all major economic sectors to inform sectoral climate change adaptation strategies; develop mechanisms to mainstream climate resilience into sectoral planning and investment processes; support local communities to mainstream climate resilience into land-use planning.

Air management

  • Continue to strengthen the monitoring and reporting of air quality data, in particular of PM2.5 concentrations in areas that are likely to exceed international guidelines; broaden the scope of the National Environment Standards on Air Quality to include maximum concentrations for PM2.5.

Waste management

  • Extend the waste disposal levy to cover all relevant landfill types; encourage local authorities to introduce quantity- or volume-based waste charges to help minimise waste, foster recycling and improve recovery of waste service costs.

  • Improve the collection of data on the generation, disposal and treatment of waste, with a view to producing timely, comprehensive and internationally comparable information.

Biodiversity conservation and sustainable use

  • Continue to improve the information base on the state of biodiversity, particularly in private lands; identify conservation priorities and formulate long-term strategies and plans for biodiversity protection and sustainable use; speed up the process for the adoption of a national policy statement on biodiversity; build on international experience in using innovative policy instruments and approaches, including payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting.


Brown, M.A. (2016), Pathways to Prosperity. Safeguarding Biodiversity in Development, Environmental Defence Society, Auckland.

Brown, M.A. (2015), Vanishing Nature: Facing New Zealand’s Biodiversity Crisis, Environmental Defence Society, Auckland.

Clifford, V. et al. (2013), “Quantifying the change in high country fire hazard from wilding trees”, New Zealand Fire Service Commission Research Report, No. 127, New Zealand Forest Research Institute.

Climate Action Tracker (2016), “New Zealand”, webpage, (accessed 3 October 2016).

DOC (2016), Predator Free New Zealand 2050, website,, Department of Conservation, Wellington (accessed 15 October 2016).

DOC (2013), Visitor Trends Report, Department of Conservation, Wellington.

FAO (2016), The Global Forest Resources Assessment: How are the world’s forests changing?, Second edition, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

FiBL and IFOAM (2016), The World of Organic Agriculture 2016, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Frick and Bonn.

Government of New Zealand (2014), New Zealand’s Fifth National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Reporting period: 2009-2013, Government of New Zealand, Wellington.

Humphries, B. and M. Close (2015), National Survey of Pesticides in Groundwater 2014, Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR), report prepared for New Zealand regional councils.

IEA (forthcoming), Energy Policies of IEA Countries: New Zealand, IEA/OECD Publishing, Paris.

Logan, H. (2016), Looking Back – Looking Forward? Institutional aspects of New Zealand approaches to nature conservation, Policy Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 42-49.

Maori Land Court (2016), Maori Land Update, June 2016, Ministry of Justice.

MfE (2016a), New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gases Inventory 1990-2014, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

MfE (2016b), New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change, September 2016, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

MfE (2016c), Latest Update on New Zealand’s 2020 Net Position, webpage, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, (accessed October 2016).

MfE (2016d), Climate Projections for New Zealand: Snapshot, June 2016, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

MfE and Statistics NZ (2016), New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Our Marine Environment 2016, Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.

MfE (2015), New Zealand’s Second Biennial Report under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

MfE and Statistics NZ (2015), New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Environment Aotearoa 2015, Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.

MfE (2014a), Review of the Effectiveness of the Waste Disposal Levy, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

MfE (2014b), Air Domain Report 2014, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.

MfE (2013), Stratospheric Ozone Indicator Update, October 2012, Info 652, Reviewed July 2013, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington,

MPI (2016), The Status of New Zealand’s Fisheries 2015, February 2016, Ministry for Primary Industry, Wellington.

OECD (2016a), OECD Economic Outlook, Volume 2016/1, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2016b), “Material resources (Edition 2015)”, OECD Environment Statistics (database), (accessed 5 October 2016).

OECD (2016c), “Emissions of air pollutants”, OECD Environment Statistics (database), (accessed 7 October 2016).

OECD (2016d), “Water: Wastewater treatment (Edition 2016)”, OECD Environment Statistics (database), (accessed 15 October 2016).

OECD (2015a), OECD Economic Surveys: New Zealand 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2015b), “New Zealand”, in OECD Review of Fisheries: Policy and Summary Statistics 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2015c), Environment at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2014), Society at a Glance 2014 Highlights: New Zealand, OECD Social Indicators,

OECD (2013), “Environmental Performance of Agriculture (Edition 2013)”, OECD Agriculture Statistics (database), (accessed 5 October 2016).

OECD (2007), OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: New Zealand, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD-FAO (2016), OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2016-2025, OECD Publishing, Paris,

PCE (2015a), “New Zealand’s contribution to the new international climate change agreement”, Submission to the Minister for Climate Change Issues and the Minister for the Environment, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington.

PCE (2015b), “Preparing New Zealand for rising seas: certainty and uncertainty”, report prepared for the Ministry for the Environment, November 2015, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington.

PCE (2012), Water Quality in New Zealand: Understanding the Science, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington.

Royal Society of New Zealand (2016), Transition to a Low-carbon Economy for New Zealand, April 2016, Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Ruru, J. (2014), Tuhoe-Crown settlement – Te Urewera Act 2014, Maori Law Review, October 2014.

Simpson, J. et al. (2015), “Child Poverty Monitor 2015”,Technical Report, NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, University of Otago, Dunedin.

Statistics NZ (2016a), Tourism Satellite Accounts: 2015 (database), Statistics New Zealand, Wellington (accessed 28 September 2016).

Statistics NZ (2016b), “Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)”, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington (accessed 18 August 2016).

Statistics NZ (2015a), New Zealand in Profile 2015, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington.

Statistics NZ (2015b), “Area unit population projections, by age and sex, 2013(base)-2043”, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington (accessed 15 June 2016).

Statistics NZ (2015c), “Perceptions of housing quality in 2014/15”, Statistics New Zealand, Wellington (accessed 16 June 2016).


← 1. The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

← 2. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch on 22 February 2011, killing 185 people and causing widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure, which had already been weakened by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September 2010. A significant number of dwellers were displaced, and much of the city’s infrastructure and assets had to relocate and be rebuilt.

← 3. After the record high of 2013, dairy prices continued to decline, following the weaker import demand from the People’s Republic of China and increased global production (OECD-FAO, 2016). Dairy production in New Zealand is largely based on pasture and therefore prone to extreme weather events. Recent forecasts indicate these events may reduce New Zealand’s dairy production by 6.8% (OECD-FAO, 2016).

← 4. In 2013, GDP per capita in the wealthiest region was 2.3 times higher than in the poorest region; this is among the lowest values among OECD member countries (OECD, 2014). The relatively small regional spread is explained by a relatively mobile workforce and a strong agricultural sector, which has boosted per capita income in rural areas.

← 5. The share of 0-17 year olds living below the poverty line (defined at 60% of the median income after housing costs) increased from 24% to 29% between 2013 and 2014 (Simpson et al., 2015).

← 6. The Pike River mine was closed in November 2010 as a consequence of a methane explosion; other mining activities have been suspended at the Spring Creek mine on the west coast of the South Island.

← 7. New Zealand crude oil is high quality with low density and sulphur content, which has a premium price advantage on the international market (IEA, forthcoming).

← 8. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects the sea around New Zealand will rise about 30 cm in the next 50 years.

← 9. DMC is the sum of domestic raw materials extraction used by an economy and its physical trade balance (imports minus exports of domestic raw materials and manufactured products).

← 10. Data on waste management are limited to waste disposed of in levied landfills that accept municipal solid waste (as defined by the New Zealand Waste Minimisation Act 2008). This is estimated to account for nearly 30% (2.7 million tonnes) of total waste disposed of to land (in addition, about 6.5 million tonnes are disposed of in non-levied landfills and farm dumps) (MfE, 2014a).

← 11. Aboriginal fisheries are regulated by specific regulations as customary-non-commercial fishing and excluded from the other schemes.

← 12. For example, 100% of frogs, lizards, bats and coders; 96% of freshwater fish and spiders; 81% of flowering plants; and 56% of birds are endemic (found nowhere else in the world) (Brown, 2016).

← 13. Using a different classification, which includes threatened and at risk species, the Ministry for the Environment estimates that 81% of bird species, 72% of freshwater fish, 88% of reptiles, 100% of frogs and 27% of resident marine mammal species faceextinction (MfE and NZ Statistics, 2015).

← 14. New Zealand does not regularly collect data on water abstraction; data are estimated on the basis of water allocations (about half of allocated water is actually abstracted). International comparison thus needs to be treated with caution.

← 15. The nutrient balance is defined as the difference between nutrient inputs entering a farming system (mainly livestock manure and fertilisers) and nutrient outputs leaving the system (the uptake of nutrients for crop and pasture production). A nutrient deficit indicates declining soil fertility; a nutrient surplus indicates a risk of polluting soil, water and air (OECD, 2014).

← 16. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions increased by 13% over 2000-14, sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions by 5% and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions by 8% (OECD, 2016c).

← 17. Between 2001 and 2012, estimated emissions from on-road transport decreased for carbon monoxide (CO) (-39%), NOx (-35%), PM10 (-24%), PM2.5 (-25%) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) (-50%) (MfE and Statistics NZ, 2015).

← 18. The NES on Air Quality includes five standards for ambient (outdoor) air quality (on PM10, NO2, O3, SO2 and CO); standards banning activities that discharge significant quantities of dioxins and other toxics into the air; a design standard for new wood burners installed in urban areas; and a requirement for landfills with over 1 million tonnes of refuse to collect greenhouse gas emissions. The standard for PM10 concentrations requires that daily average concentrations do not exceed 50μg/m3 more than one day per year. It is based on the WHO guideline for short-term exposure, which requires that daily average concentrations do not exceed 50μg/m3 more than three days per year.

← 19. The UV index or sun index is an indicator of the level of exposure to UV radiation; WHO developed it to inform the public on the risks of excessive UV exposure and advise on the need of protective measures. The scale of the indicator is open-ended and values vary in relation to exposure risk according to the following classification: 1-2: low; 3-5: moderate; 6-7: high; 8-9: very high; 11+: extreme.