Beautiful New Zealand is on the verge of catastrophic biodiversity loss and extinctions along with polluted rivers, disastrous growth of the dairy industry and urban sprawl and it’s all because of ignoring environment calls for decades, a major report says.
The data from the environment ministry and Statistics New Zealand is used and compiled in the environmental report, Environment Aotearoa – the first major report in four years.
The real picture of the country represented by the report is entirely different from that portrayed in the marketing campaign “Pure New Zealand” promoting the pristine landscape to attract tourists in millions per year.
The findings of the report about New Zealand are dreadful and accounted for the extinction of 75 animal and plant species due to human settlement and the probable near extinction of 90% of seabirds and 80% of shorebirds.
It also poses a threat to around two-thirds of the rare ecosystems of New Zealand that is about to collapse. The risk of extinction of 86 species aggravated over the last 15 years compared to improvement in the conservation status of 26 species only in the previous 10 years.
It is impossible to estimate the irretrievable status other than the 20% of New Zealand’s species that have been identified and recorded.
According to Kevin Hague of the conservation group Forest and Bird, “decades of procrastination and denial” have turned out to be devastating, and that the report was successful in capturing that.
“New Zealand is losing species and ecosystems faster than nearly any other country,” he said.
Four thousands of our native species are in trouble … from rampant dairy conversions to destructive seabed trawling – [we] are irreversibly harming our natural world.
David Parker, the minister for the environment, said the report offered “no big surprises.” However, the urgency of cleaning up the waterways and attaining carbon neutral status by 2050 is reinforced by the report.
“If, with all our advantages, New Zealand can’t overcome its environmental problems, then the world won’t,” Parker said.
The critical area for improvement that has been targeted by the government is the country’s freshwater quality which has deteriorated with the massive rise of the dairy industry in the country over the past 20 years. Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, pledged to transform the country’s rivers and lakes into swimmable condition again for the future generation.
However, that could be challenging as the report disclosed the presence of E coli and nitrates at 59% and13% of the wells respectively. The water quality is poor in 57% of monitored lakes, and there is a risk of extinction of 76% of native freshwater fish including one-third of the freshwater insects.
The intensive use of irrigation, fertilizers, and cows are the main reason behind this inferior quality of freshwater as per Forest and Bird.
James Shaw, the Green party co-leader and the minister for climate change, said the environment was taking a further toll of extinction of species due to global warming that can be easily felt with the increase in land temperatures including sea-level rise, and ocean warming.
“All the issues in this report are made worse by climate change, and that is why this government is so determined to take strong action,” Shaw asserted.
“The introduction of climate change legislation, establishing an independent climate change commission to guide emissions reductions, and the just transition to a low emissions economy are vital.”
As per Hague, the reality was far worse than the finding of the report as it did not consider “dangerous marine heatwaves” and inadequate marine protections as marine reserves protect only half a percent and even less of New Zealand’s sea area.
“We must not waste any more time in fundamentally changing the way we interact with nature,” he said. “We need an economy that nurtures and restores our environment, not one that trashes it.”