5 April 2007

OECD urges New Zealand to improve water and waste management. 

New Zealand has improved its environmental performance over the past decade, but should reinforce water and waste management, energy efficiency and climate protection efforts. 

The OECD's Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand makes a number of recommendations. 

Among other things, it calls on New Zealand to:  

  • Better protect surface and ground waters. The report shows that the water quality of streams, rivers and lakes is declining due to diffuse pollution, and irrigation is taking a toll on some aquifers. The OECD recommends introducing baseline regulations on water quality, and economic approaches to water allocation among users, to avoid problems in the future. 
  • Clarify and strengthen climate protection policy. The suspension of the climate protection policy package in 2005, in particular the planned carbon tax, has created great uncertainty about how New Zealand will meet its Kyoto target. The OECD calls on the country to use economic approaches to encourage energy efficiency and carbon dioxide sequestration. It also recommends more use of the "Kyoto flexible mechanisms", including emissions trading. 
  • Upgrade waste management. The OECD notes improvements in waste management policies, but urges that landfill sites be run on a full cost recovery basis, country-wide, to help finance needed infrastructure improvements. The report also points out the need for systematic tracking of movements and treatment of hazardous wastes. 
  • Improve environmental reporting at the national level. The OECD points to the need for better coordination of regional-level monitoring to enable the development of national-level indicators to track progress towards environmental sustainability goals.
Among achievements during the review period, the report notes that New Zealand has: 
  • Kept environmentally harmful subsidies among the lowest in the OECD in the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Associated environmental benefits include the conversion of large tracts of marginal agricultural lands to forest or conservation parks. Fisheries management through individual tradable quotas has helped avoid stock collapses; 
  • Improved drinking water quality. Thanks to investment in distribution and treatment infrastructure, and better management, the proportion of the public water supply that fully complies with drinking water guidelines increased from 50% in 1994 to 84% in 2004. To enable further progress, OECD recommends introducing nationally consistent and legally binding drinking water quality standards. 
  • Improved integration and balancing of environmental and social concerns. Under the Resource Management Act, stakeholder input to environmental management and policy formulation has increased, through public participation and consultation, and through confirmation of Maori natural resource interests. 
  • Expanded its network of protected areas to include formerly under-represented ecosystems (e.g. marine areas, indigenous forests). Protected areas now cover 32% of the country's land area, and 7.5% of the territorial sea, significantly higher than in most OECD countries.