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Hawke's Bay's Environmental report card

Ngaruroro river resized

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has released its three yearly State of the Environment report evaluating environmental conditions and pressures, informing and benefitting local communities, and the Council’s plans.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Science Manager Anna Madarasz-Smith says that the Government’s freshwater reforms have raised the bar for assessment and reporting, with increased transparency and simplicity of reporting, to promote public understanding.

“For the first time our State of the Environment reports at a catchment level, providing greater context on the pressures and actions being taken.

“We have adopted a ki uta, ki tai approach, that considers interactions among land, water, ecosystems and receiving environments – recognising that there is just one environment,“ she says.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor and Environment and Integrated Catchments Committee Chair Hinewai Ormsby says, “It is a good benchmark, and shows not only the issues and opportunities, but also the link between what we do on land and the impact on rivers and marine environments.

“As a region we face significant environmental challenges, and we are committed to overcoming them as a Council, working smarter and harder on many fronts.”

“The SOE will help inform and shape the discussions we will have with our rural and urban communities, and with mana whenua as part of our regional planning.

“I look forward to being part of the robust discussions to come,” says Councillor Ormsby.

Key findings by catchment 2018-2021:

Wairoa and Northern coast

  • Increasing temperatures and water loss from the land through evaporation
  • Annual rainfall lower than the long-term average
  • River flows have decreased on average
  • Sediment and E.coli pollution are the main stressors in river and marine systems, impacting recreation and macroinvertebrate health
  • Northern rivers have poorer recreational quality than those further south

Mohaka and Waihua

  • Sediment loss from land is the main stressor on aquatic environments
  • The quality of groundwater in shallow unconfined aquifers in Taharua is vulnerable to contamination from land use activities

Esk and Central coast

  • Low rainfall has contributed to below average river flows
  • E.coli is impacting swim-ability in many areas
  • Sedimentation is likely impacting aquatic fish and bugs
  • Lake Tutira is more swimmable, due to lack of algal blooms

Tūtaekirī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro, Karamū (TANK)

  • Sediment loss from land is one of the main stressors on streams, rivers, and the estuary, with dissolved reactive phosphorus also a problem
  • Coastal waters show the influence of river inputs – but within the range observed nationally
  • Groundwater quality is generally very good, but shallow uncontained aquifers are vulnerable to land use contamination
  • Droughts between 2019-2021 lowered groundwater levels and river levels


  • Water scarcity is a feature of this catchment, with freshwater under particular pressure in autumn 2020
  • Climate change may continue to affect future groundwater levels
  • Nitrogen contamination is problematic
  • Land erosion is leaching phosphorus and fine sediment into streams
  • The river is generally safe for swimming, except after heavy rain
  • Actions to improve water quality and ecosystem health include riparian protection, wetland creation, and erosion control

Pōrangahau and Southern coast

  • Indigenous vegetation is rare in this area
  • The temperature increase and rainfall decline was more significant than elsewhere in the region
  • Summer and winter river flows were below average
  • Sediment and E.coli were major stressors for the river systems and estuary impacting recreation and macroinvertebrate health

The State our Environment 2018-2021 report is available here.



19 July 2022

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