I was leisurely perusing the Convention on Biological Diversity site, no doubt a common activity of a Saturday evening? No? Right….anyway, I came across a rash statement, a forgotten goal and then recalled another reason to get a bit fresh…
In 2009, the hard-working poppets at Landcare Research published an Annual Science Report. In it, they identified that in the last decade, amid our pomp and toff about 100% pure and all that jazz, that the rate of loss of native vegetation was the fastest since Cook and his merry men arrived in the 1700’s, identified of course to be due to agricultural intensification (hear that Federated Farmers?!). So why then does the New Zealand profile on the Convention on Biological Diversity note than in the last 20 years the rate of ecosystem decline has slowed? Other than perhaps in the arena of pest control, I see no real evidence of this. Am I missing something?
Our profile goes on to state that:
Marine protected areas are being created to address the threats of human activities on marine habitats, and the government has committed itself to protecting 10% of its marine habitats by 2010.
Let’s check progress shall we? The figures for this are possibly not even correct. It’s a lot easier to consistently fail in achieving ecological management targets when your monitoring is so inadequate that both failures and successes are never revealed. Nevertheless, the date has passed and let us see where we are at with the 10% goal. The Department of Conservation offers this analysis:
Collectively, these reserves protect 7% of New Zealand’s territorial sea. However, 99% of this is in two marine reserves around isolated offshore island groups (Auckland and Kermadec), and very little, in fact less than the area of our smallest National Park (Abel Tasman), in our mainland territorial sea.
So we are at 7%, 3% short of the target and the distribution of that protected area is highly concentrated in two areas. Add that to the fact that the goal was to protect 10% of our marine habitats one does get the sense that the spatial distribution is probably not in favour of representativeness. New Zealand also has a very large exclusive economic zone and it is perhaps worth noting that the total marine area in protection is actually 3%. Nuff said.
And let’s not forget the sterling example of nought short of corruption, when Chapter 13 was mysteriously deleted from the 2007 State of the Environment Report. Oddly enough it examined matters such as the influence of primary production on our ecosystems and did not paint a pretty picture. Thanks to direct pressure from the likes of the Green Party, said document was released, complete with begrudging and defensive preamble, see here: (http://www.mfe.govt.nz/environmental-reporting/soe-reports/enz07-draft-conclusion-chapter.html). The report confirmed that intensive farming and it’s effect on our waterways was indeed our number one environmental issue. The usual hue and cry ensued of farmers crowing about being the backbone of the country. The fact is that the spine is damn near broke, and the only things getting rich here are the farmers, their suppliers and the nutrient levels of our precious waterways.
The issue here is that not only are we failing profoundly to protect and sustain what matters, but that we are purposely obscuring the fact. I am, it’s fair to say, somewhat aggrieved.
 Landcare Research (2009) “The Economy and the Environment” Annual Science Report Part 1, Landcare Research New Zealand p.12