It is with great pleasure that we present to you Northland Regional Council's third State of the Environment Report. The information gathered through our environmental monitoring programme informs much of the council's work and this report, which covers the period 2007-2011, presents a summary of this.
Much has changed since the first state of the environment report in 2002. The council has responded to developing trends and issues, feedback from the community, and changes in government legislation. As a regional council, we have one of the country's most rigorous environmental monitoring programmes, which allows us to respond to issues with appropriate measures – whether that's working with the community or putting in place regulatory controls.
The development of the Proposed Regional Policy Statement 2012 – which provides the broad direction and framework for managing Northland's physical and natural resources – has been directly influenced by our environmental monitoring work. This report is therefore closely aligned with the anticipated environmental results contained in both the proposed and operative regional policy statements, reflecting the environmental aims of the past and what Northlanders want for the future.
What is the state of our environment?
On the whole, Northland's environment is in good health. There have been steady improvements in water quality with more rigorous monitoring and enforcement of resource consents that allow discharges to waterways.
Waiora Northland Water, a council-wide project which encompasses many of our work programmes, has been developed as a result of state of the environment monitoring and as a means of implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2011. It reflects our commitment to continuing to improve the state of Northland's water and the importance the community places on this valuable resource.
Other important work programmes including the Priority Rivers Project, the Top Wetlands Project, Community Pest Control Areas, and Farm Management Plans, have been developed and influenced by our on-going environmental monitoring programme and there have been environmental improvements as a result.
Farm Management Plans are a good example of a project that has been developed in response to the results of environmental monitoring. Council staff work with landowners to develop the plans – now required for all Environment Fund applications – which will ultimately help to reduce the amount of sediment and farm runoff from entering the region's waterways.
Northland's landscape is changing – there's increasing pressure from pest plants and animals (like Mediterranean fanworm) and while overall stock numbers have decreased, farming systems have intensified. Population growth on urban fringes has increased pressures on infrastructure while diverting quality land away from production. This changing context has meant we've adopted a wider approach to this report and have included information about our people and our economy.
As your regional council we are tasked with monitoring and providing advice, incentives and regulations to protect our environment while balancing the economic needs of the community. Ultimately, the state of our environment is determined by the people who live in and use it. On-going monitoring helps the council keep an eye on what's happening to the environment but it's a joint effort, and we look forward to continuing to work with Northlanders to set and meet your environmental expectations.
Chief Executive Officer