The health of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland’s natural environment in 2020
Author:Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
Source:Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
The natural environment of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland is diverse. It is home to special local ecosystems and species in harbours, beaches, lakes, coastlines, maunga, rain-forest clad ranges, and the Hauraki Gulf motu/islands.
Our environment provides us with the air we breathe, fresh water we drink, locally produced food, and places to live, work and play. The health of the natural environment affects Aucklanders’ health and wellbeing. Māori are connected to the natural environment through whakapapa and are kaitiaki. The spiritual and cultural connection Māori have to Tāmaki Makaurau is tied to their relationship with the land, maunga, harbours and waters. The health and wellbeing of the environment and people as part of that environment is paramount. Auckland Council has a stewardship role to protect and restore our natural environment, preserving it for current and future generations.
Our amazing natural environment may look okay on the surface, but its health is not always so great. Past decisions and the pressures of providing for a growing population, where we choose to live and how we use our land and water, have had a negative impact on the mauri (life force) of the natural environment across the region. A degraded environment is less resilient to cope with the impacts that climate change will have.
Providing for a growing population continues to add pressure to our degraded environment. This growth has been significant and rapid. Between the 2013 and 2018 Censuses, our population increased by 156,168 people, accounting for over a third of the overall national growth. The current population of 1,717,500 (as at June 2020) is projected to reach a population of 2.3 million by 2050. Current and future choices about where and how Tāmaki Makaurau grows influences how we address environmental degradation and the opportunities to use growth to restore our natural environment.
The Auckland Plan 2050 identifies three challenges facing Auckland now and into the future: environmental degradation, high population growth and sharing prosperity with all Aucklanders. The Auckland Plan 2050 three-year progress report (2020) outlined the mixed progress being made on reducing environmental degradation and the need to continue to address the challenge.
This report reinforces this need by building a regional picture of the health of the natural environment, how we are impacting it and where we are heading. This provides decision-makers with knowledge and evidence to help prioritise how we respond to the challenge of improving the health of the natural environment.
Purpose of this report
This synthesis report brings together results from technical reports, covering the state and changes over time in air, land and water domains, to tell the story of the health of our natural environment. It also highlights key Auckland Council regional responses intended to improve the state of our environment. Detailed analysis of data for indicators can be found in the supporting technical reports.
Why are we doing this?
Managing the region’s natural resources is a core function of Auckland Council, set out in legislation. This includes monitoring and reporting on the state of all or part of the environment under section 35 of the Resource Management Act 1991.
Monitoring can detect change in our natural environment and inform whether these changes are natural variations, related to climate change or an impact of other human activities. As a critical part of the ‘plan-do-monitor-review’ cycle, monitoring helps to identify what we should worry about the most, whether we are making progress (short- and long-term) or if there are new issues emerging as we resolve old issues.
All New Zealand regional councils monitor the natural environment. Data collected by Auckland Council feeds into national environmental reporting (managed by the Ministry for the Environment) to inform government priorities and to understand if Tāmaki Makaurau has similar issues to other regions. For more information on the issues for New Zealand see Environment Aotearoa 2019.
Auckland Council, February 2021