The state of our environment: findings from research and engagement
Toitū te marae o Tane, toitū te marae o Tangaroa, toitū te whenua.
Care for the realms of the forest and of the sea, and they will sustain and protect the people.
Last year Tauranga City Council set out to better understand the current state of our city’s environment, and our community’s aspirations for its future. We are glad to share the findings from this work today.
Cr. Steve Morris, Chair of the Environment Committee said that this work is an important first step towards building a city-wide environment strategy for Tauranga.
“We want to ensure that our city grows in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment and our community’s quality of life”, Steve said.
“The wastewater overflow that affected Pilot Bay ten days ago is a reminder that our environment is vulnerable, and that we need to make protecting it a priority. A priority for Council, for the city and for each and every one of us."
“We all need to better understand the issues, and our own impact. The environment strategy will help us identify outcomes and targets for our city’s environment, and then we can work towards them together.”
The research involved a two-pronged approach to collect the information we need to develop the strategy.
“We started with scientific research to get the hard data on things like greenhouse gas emissions and fresh water quality in our city. Then we asked people what’s most important to them and sought guidance from experts in environmental sustainability”, said Steve.
“Many thanks to everybody for your contributions – partners and stakeholders, and the thousand or so community members who shared their knowledge and views.”
We commissioned a report on the state of the environment looking at the five key areas of atmosphere, air, land, fresh water and marine, along with a carbon footprint report to understand our city’s greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
The state of environment assessment found that our city’s air is by global standards good, and that marine swimming water quality rates good or very good at all sites tested in the harbour. On the other hand, we only have 3% of land cover in native vegetation, our fresh water quality is under increasing pressure, and waste minimisation needs to be improved to reduce the current average of 630kg of waste per person per year.
The carbon footprint report found that as a city we generated 5.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions equivalent per person in the 2015/16 financial year (Wellington: 5.7t/person in 2014/15). Most greenhouse gas emissions in Tauranga are related to road transport (60%), followed by our electricity consumption (14%) and solid waste disposal (8%).
The research also identified areas, like biodiversity, air quality and emissions from shipping, which require further investigation and data collection for us to fully understand.
In parallel we collected insights from our community on our natural environment, what they value, what their concerns are, what we should be doing better.
We did this through in-depth interviews with Tangata Whenua, and with partners like the Regional Council and other organisations active in sustainability. In parallel an online survey gathered insights from people across the city, with over 1,000 responses received.
We found that our community is deeply connected to our environment and especially with the Tauranga Harbour. People are concerned about water pollution, loss of biodiversity, the long-term effects of climate change and the pace of our city’s growth, with the risk of loss of urban greenspace.
Participants told us they think we need to (1) invest in comprehensive public transport and facilities for people to be able to cycle and walk around the city instead of taking their cars; (2) prioritise resource recovery and waste minimisation; (3) sustainably manage our water quality and allocation; and (4) pursue greening development, urban forests and environmental restoration.
Other recurring insights will guide the way we develop the strategy and action plans:
• Leadership drives change: there is a strong groundswell of support within Tauranga’s community for our council to take a bold environmental stance.
• People are at the centre: protecting the environment is about improving people’s lives, and cannot be achieved without the commitment of all to make changes to how we live.
• Bring Māori and western knowledge systems closer together: as the personification of nature, with spirit and life force, there is much to be gained from integrating Mātauranga Māori into the development of the strategy.
• Everything we do is connected: it’s not just about environmental wellbeing. Social, environmental, cultural and economic wellbeing – everything is connected. It’s about achieving the right balance to deliver positive outcomes across the board.
We will use the learnings from this research phase to develop the Tauranga Environment Strategy in collaboration with and stakeholders, before bringing it back to the wider community later on in the year.
The strategy will define aspirational outcomes for the environment, priorities and targets. On this basis, we will develop action plans to deliver on the aspirations of the strategy.
The research will also inform other strategies and plans, like transportation and urban planning, and provide a baseline to monitor change and the effectiveness of any actions we take as a city.