Horizons Regional Council Palmerston North councillor Jono Naylor responded to Fish & Game chief executive Martin Taylor's comment that regional councils have failed to protect the environment.

"If you take a snapshot, everyone would say there is room to make improvements. In a wider context and the trends over time, we have been making improvements in some areas."

Naylor agreed HRC had some way to go, and over the next month HRC would be releasing its own report.

"It's a balancing act," Naylor said.

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"We have to be mindful of the ratepayers and the environment. Everything has a cost.

"If we were to monitor everything all the time, then we have to ask ourselves, where will the money come from to make the improvements?"

Last week Environment Aotearoa 2019 was jointly released by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ.

Fish & Game NZ chief executive Martin Taylor said regional councils under the RMA have a legal obligation to protect the environment for future generations.

"New Zealand's environment report is a performance review on regional councils and how they have completely failed to protect the environment.

"This report shows they have failed to do that," Taylor said.

The report confirms water quality is poor and getting worse in most parts of the country.

"For example, despite New Zealand having over 3820 lakes over one hectare which should be monitored for phytoplankton, only 63 were, and of those 35 per cent were worse than the regulatory bottom-line.

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"Some of the worst water quality issues can be found in Manawatu-Whanganui, Canterbury, Otago and Southland, where all of these regional councils have promoted and protected agricultural interests over the environment for decades."

"At a basic level the report confirmed that if you have too much irrigation, too much fertiliser and too many cows, you destroy water quality in rivers, lakes and ground water," he said.

"This report also shows why the Government has a mandate to stop further decline in water quality by regulating environmentally unsustainable agricultural practices.

"We are looking forward to the Government delivering on their Essential Freshwater programme aimed at stopping further degradation in water quality and to reverse past damage," Taylor said.

"It is also clear that the public support moves to address New Zealand's water quality issue with 82 per cent of them saying they are extremely or very concerned about water quality according to a nation-wide Colmar-Brunton poll in December 2018."

For almost all of Canterbury more water is consented for take than is available in the rivers.

Department of Conservation chief science advisor Dr Ken Hughey commented on the report and said it confirmed the precarious state of much of New Zealand's biodiversity.

"Land use pressures and invasive species are the driving forces behind the biodiversity crisis.

"How seriously are we taking this crisis? Predator Free 2050, freshwater goals and the marine protected network are responses that will make a difference.

"We need to build momentum around the positive things we're doing. This report provides evidence that central and local government, iwi, businesses and communities need to be joined at the hip. A healthy environment will help to address what the government is trying to achieve through its wellbeing focus.

Lack of data is still an issue. Only around 20 per cent of New Zealand's species are identified and documented.

There's an urgent need to document what exists, particularly in the case of insects, microplants such as liverworts, lichens and mosses, and marine life.

These species are important because they underpin what makes New Zealand's biodiversity so special, alongside charismatic megafauna like the Maui dolphin and kakapo.

The lower-profile flora and fauna are an essential component of our biodiversity.

They're the building blocks that make up our soils, provide food for birds and fish, and enrich habitats - but we don't know the rate of loss because we don't have a complete picture of what's there.

Getting the data on the remaining 80 per cent of New Zealand species will give us a much better idea of strategies to protect our biodiversity.

NIWA chief scientist freshwater Dr Scott Larned added that water quality is a major topic in the report.

He said water quality covered the many physical, chemical and biological variables that are measured in rivers, lakes, aquifers and coastal sites.

"Despite the complications, some broad patterns are evident. Rivers, lakes and groundwater in pastoral areas have greatly elevated levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, fine sediment and faecal bacteria, compared to levels in native-forest areas.

"Many urban streams are also degraded, including being contaminated with heavy metals."