Today we went t the NIWA (National institute of Water an Atmospheric Research), its Maori name being Taihoro Nukurangi which translates to “where the water meets the sky”. Our first speaker was Ken Becker, the regional manager of the institute. He works mostly with CRI’s, Crowned Research Institutes founded in 1992. These institutes are crown-owned and must be financially viable. NIWA has 650 employees, 600 being science staff and 50 for support services. Being a crown-owned institute NIWA also acquires national environmental monitoring networks, national significant collections and databases. Ken presented several key national sciences centres: Atmospheric, National hazards, coasts, climate, biodiversity/biosecurity, Maori development, and energy.
The first topic expanded upon was the atmosphere; New Zealand reduces emissions of Green House Gases, ozone-depleting materials, and methane emitted from farm animals.
Climate wise, New Zealand is well prepared for and adapts efficiently to the impacts and opportunities afforded by our current climate and future climate variability. New Zealand is powered by sustainable and secure energy, 70% coming from hydroelectric energy. The use of wind energy is slightly more tricky, since the areas with the most potential for harnessing wind does not match with the places with the densest population or highest energy needs. New Zealand has adopted a large-scale goal of using 90% renewable energy by 2025.
Mr. Becker explained the importance of New Zealand’s freshwater, coasts, and oceans. Freshwater resources are wisely allocated and have measurably improved quality and ecosystem health. Common challenges to the preservation of freshwater is the growing industry of foresting. The increase of tree harvesting has dramatically increased the erosion of sediment and chemicals to the surrounding waters. This has also impacted the local eel habitat. Since New Zealand is an island, most of the population live near the coasts thus it is vital to those residents that the coast is kept healthy.
In New Zealand, aquatic biodiversity is understood, conserved and sustainably managed. Biosecurity systems reduce arrival of undesirable aquatic species and those that are here are detected and effectively controlled. The importance of managing biodiversity has been a reoccurring theme in our studies. New Zealand however, has a more unique problem of biosecurity since most of the animals have been introduced. In places such as Kapiti and Blue Duck Lodge we learned of the extensive measures and even had first hand experience with the hard work put in to rid the land of harmful alien species.
New Zealand fisheries revolve around the strictly enforced Total Allowable Catch System. This system protects any one species of fish from being over harvested. There are two main native fish of New Zealand that contribute to the aquaculture is the King fish and Hafpocker. The local economy is also stimulated by the Paua shell that is often used for jewelry and other tourist directed souvenirs.
The natural hazards found in New Zealand’s history and future as well as the Maori development was further explained in the second presentation given by Mr. Darren King.
The second presentation by Mr. Darren King concentrated more on the Maori community and its adaptation to climate variability and change. More specifically, examining the risk, vulnerability and endurance with Kati Huirpa (a sub-tribal group) at Arowhenua Pa. Few studies have been conducted with specific populations in Aotearoa to understand the contextual nature of the climate change risks. The objective was to gather Maori stakeholders across the country to discuss such issues. The population of Arowhenua Pa is 90% Maori, and this is significant because they are the natives of New Zealand and share a special connection to the land and its management. Mr. King asked what is the benefit of this type of work? The answer was summed up in two parts. First, the community relevant basis for considering and pursuing action to address constraints of new opportunities. Second, reward was the gained knowledge of success for the Maoris future developments.
After our presentations at NIWA, Ms. Robyn Simcock of Landcare Research, another CRI, showed us around Wynyard Quarter, a great example of mixed use sustainable development. Years ago, military, business, and industry polluted the waters with copper and zinc, affecting fish, plant, and human life in the area. But recently, there has been a strong push for sustainable development. Now, the area contains the longest continuous rain garden in the world. It collects storm water and filters it through layers of plants and gravel to filter it before it ends up back in the ocean. This low maintenance, cost effective is a huge step up from impermeable surfaces such as concrete. We passed buildings under construction with light control panels and other renewable features. Large playgrounds in the area offer lessons in environmentally friendly activities like planting trees. It seems like the attitude in Auckland is much more environmentally friendly and sustainability oriented than in the States. There seems to be a serious effort to use urban space in an environmentally mindful manner as well as educate the future generations about the importance of conservationism.