Auckland’s impending environmental crisis

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, November 2nd, 2017 - 12 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, Conservation, disaster, Environment, local government, sustainability - Tags:

I am not breaking any secrets by saying that Auckland’s environment is going backwards at an alarming rate, and that we are facing a crisis.

The subject was discussed at a recent Waitakere Ranges Local Board meeting.

From the Wester Leader report on the meeting:

Auckland faces a loss of biodiversity “at a cataclysmic level” unless it increases spending by up to $26 million.

This is the warning of Penny Hulse, chairwoman of the city’s environment committee.

A “clear-eyed” discussion was needed about how the environment would suffer if current funding in the council’s 10-year budget continued – and whether Aucklanders were happy for that to happen, she said.

Hulse said she would prefer the council found the money without raising rates.

“We need to be honest about what kind of species will go extinct because of the Long-Term Plan.”

Hulse brought up the subject at the Waitākere Ranges Local Board meeting on October 26.

She said she wanted the council to present the public in the new year with three priced options: “go backwards fast, kind of hold our own and go backwards slowly, or protect and enhance our environment”.

The money needed to protect and enhance was equivalent to between a 1 and 1.7 per cent increase in the general rates, she said.

A calculation on the council’s 2017/2018 budget showed this would be between $15m and $26m a year.

Staff have performed this outstanding simplification of a complex area to make it eminently comprehensible what will happen under different funding scenarios.

Under business as usual, forecast to cost about $8 million a year for the next three years and $97 million over the next decade, the forecast is for there to be “environmental decline and extinctions”.  In particular the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is more than 80%.

Under a more expensive scenario, forecast to cost about $28 million a year for the next three years and $220 million over the next decade, the forecast is for there to be “slowed decline”.  Under this scenario the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is estimated to be between 30 and 50%.

Under the most expensive scenario, forecast to cost about $50 million a year for the next three years and $453 million over the next decade, the forecast is this will “protect and enhance priority areas and species”.  Under this scenario the risk of the spread of kauri dieback is thought to be between 10 and 20%.

The most expensive option does not mean an overall improvement, only that the decline will be arrested and priority areas and species enhanced.

As pointed out in the article the cost would represent between a 1 and a 1.7% general rates increase.

My personal view is that if this is the cost of preserving our environment then it should be paid.  It is as important as the provision of water or passenger transport or road and rail.  Of course Auckland Council should be funding it.

And if it going to cost a 1.7% rates increase to have a greater chance of saving Kauri and stop extinctions of native flora and fauna then that is the cost we have to pay.

The Mayor’s proposal for Auckland’s long term plan is due to be released at the end of this month.  I hope that it includes proper provision of resources to stop the decline of our environment.

Reprinted from

12 comments on “Auckland’s impending environmental crisis”

  1. weka 1

    I’m assuming this isn’t just about Kauri, but broader issues. The kauri die back thing needs its own special programme obviously, but in general I would ask what the environment needs protecting from and working back from there.

    Where I live, farming is without doubt the biggest threat to biodiversity, but so is increasing population. The more people, the more development, it’s a pretty straight forward equation.

    In third place I would put council and DOC slash and burn policies. I’m all for maintaining and regenerating native ecosystems, but there are lots of places where weeds are useful and are helping maintain struggling systems of soil microbes and insects that underpin the ability of larger organisms to exist e.g. birds, skinks, etc.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Broader issues although Kauri dieback will be an important part of this.

      • CoroDale 1.1.1

        The local Doc walk has an unlabled drum of sheep drench at the start of a kauri track. They probably did it on a budget of 50nzd.

  2. The Fairy Godmother 2

    There are heaps of problems. Some are about waterways degradation. These are often to do with building more homes as the population expands. We also have issues around the old Auckland city area where waste water systems are around one hundred years old. Myrtle rust which affects Pohutakawa is another issue. We need to make major changes.

  3. roy cartland 3

    They just saved a couple of billion by axing that idiotic road, that’s gotta count for something.

  4. Ad 4

    My personal hope is that Watercare can be turned into strong environmental stewards.

    Watercare are the managers of the great majority of the forested biosphere (including infected Kauri) in the Auckland region.

    Watercare are now going to have merged into it the entire stormwater function – as it should have had from the beginning.

    This will make them responsible both for the forests, but also for the discharges into the Waitemata, manukau, and Kaipara harbours.

    They also become responsible for all the riperian waterways that connect those forests to those harbours.

    Within those forests of course are projects like Ark in the Park in which rare species like Kokako have been introduced and are coming back.

    I am sure that Board and that management are great at running a water company – they clearly are.

    But now they are about to become responsible through the 10 year plan for the greatest integrated conservation estate in the Auckland region. They need to become outstanding environmental managers.

    I want confidence from my Council that Watercare are up to this task.

  5. Johnr 5

    We have a council outfit called ATEED which seems to exist to promote entertainment and the accommodation industries, to the tune of $24 million. Mayor Goff proposed a bed tax to fund this expenditure. The accommodation industry squealed like stuck pigs.
    I propose that ATEED be disbanded and the money used for the benefit of the environment.
    If ATEED is important to the accommodation industry then they will form their own association.
    Doing this will mean a cost neutral benefit towards Aucklands environment.

    • syclingmad 5.1

      Tell that to the 500 students that gathered a couple of Friday’s back for the Young Enterprise awards at AUT – partially supported by ATEED. Encouraging youth creativity and innovation and which might possibly lead to some solutions to the environmental degradation.

      As ever, generalisations are a slippery slope.

      As a ratepayer, I’m pretty relaxed with that spend.

  6. stunned mullet 6

    For a start how about gutting the ARC and related entity PR spend and redirecting it to conservation ?

    Edit – agree with the ATEED suggestion above as well – pack of pointless rorters costing the region a fortune.

  7. Incognito 7

    A great post on a topic that has no voice of its own.

    The Mayor’s proposal for Auckland’s long term plan is due to be released at the end of this month. I hope that it includes proper provision of resources to stop the decline of our environment.

    I’m pessimistic that there will be sufficient resources available in the Plan to make much difference. I don’t assume for a moment that things here are any better than in, say, Sheffield (UK).

  8. NickS 8

    Unfortunately, given how long it takes Kauri to reproduce, it looks like the most effective means of saving them is to use CRISPR-Cas9 or TALEN gene editing to produce die-back resistant kauri plants. Fortunately these are highly targeted gene editing tools, so they’re a lot less problematic in terms of potential complications compared to prior genetic modification techniques, since they can be used to edit pre-existing genes.

    Of course though, you can’t really use it on exist adult trees (size, dosing issues), and instead will heave to rebuild the Kauri population from modified saplings :/ Along with the cultural and RMA issues associated with GMO’s and the cost of the project.

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