New Zealand's green image under threat: OECD

File photo of the city of Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
File photo of the city of Queenstown on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON • New Zealand's strong economic growth is placing strains on the environment, threatening to undermine its "clean, green" reputation, a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned yesterday.

The South Pacific nation has long marketed itself internationally as "100 per cent pure" and is undergoing a tourism boom as visitors flock to see the spectacular scenery featured in films such as The Hobbit trilogy.

But the OECD report said the environment was paying the price for growth in the farm-reliant economy, which is among the strongest in the developed world at more than 3 per cent.

It noted that intensive dairy farming had left many rivers with elevated nitrogen levels, making them vulnerable to algal blooms.

The report, the result of a once- in-a-decade review, also said that New Zealand had one of the worst rates of species extinction in the world.

The OECD report said intensive dairy farming had left many rivers with elevated nitrogen levels, making them vulnerable to algal blooms. The report... also noted that New Zealand had one of the worst rates of species extinction in the world.

In addition, per capita greenhouse gas emissions were the fifth highest in the OECD and rising, while emissions in most other countries were on the decline.

The report also said government plans to double agricultural exports by 2025 were set to worsen the problems.

"New Zealand's growth model has begun to show its environmental limits, with increased greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation, freshwater contamination and threats to biodiversity," the report said.

"This may indicate that New Zealand's strong growth has come partly at the expense of environmental quality, a dynamic that puts the country's 'green' reputation at risk."

It recommended that Wellington strengthen its emission trading scheme and expand it to agriculture, which is exempted even though it accounts for half of the country's emissions.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has welcomed the report and said the government was already working on many of the issues it raised.

"This environmental report card will help us sharpen our future direction and environmental aspirations, as well as learn from the experiences of other countries," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'New Zealand's green image under threat: OECD'. Print Edition | Subscribe