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NZ's economic growth model pushing environmental limits - report

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 20/03/2017
File image © Colin Monteath/Getty Images File image

Freshwater pollution and increasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are among the biggest challenges New Zealand's environment faces, says a new review.

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has made 50 recommendations in its third environmental performance review, which was held about every 10 years.

It said New Zealand's economic growth model was approaching its environmental limits.

Among its concerns were irrigation, the Emissions Trading Scheme, transport taxes and declining biodiversity.

The OECD recommended the government review its support for irrigation, saying 75 percent of the country's water was used for the practice and freshwater was scarce in some regions.

Nitrogen in waterways had increased in step with the growth in dairy herds, and water quality continued to deteriorate in some regions due to agricultural and urban run-off.

The OECD report said gross emissions of greenhouse gasses in New Zealand increased by 6 percent between 2000 and 2014, compared to a 5 percent reduction in the OECD as a whole.

Nearly half of those emissions came from agriculture, the highest share in the OECD.

It said a clear date needed to be set to include agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme, or an alternative pricing and regulatory measures should be introduced.

It also said the transport system was highly dependent on roads, and in need of coherent taxes and more investment in low-carbon transport modes.

Public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure received only 10 percent of the National Land Transport Fund between 2012 and 2015, while 78 percent went to investments in roads.

In terms of biodiversity, the OECD said species extinction rates in New Zealand were among the highest in the world.

More than half of amphibians - and roughly a third of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles - were threatened.

New Zealand was a global leader in recovering species and controlling pests, which has helped improve the status of some species, but the OECD review found others which were less of a priority were declining.

The OECD has recommended an adoption of a National Policy Statement on biodiversity should be sped up.

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