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Ecological Footprints of New Zealand and its Regions 2003-04
Abstract and Figures
This report estimates ecological footprints, that is the total amount of productive land (as measured in global hectares) required to support a given population, for New Zealand and its sixteen regional council areas for the year 2003-04. The concept of the ecological footprint was developed by Wackernabel and Rees (1996) in the early 1990s and it is increasingly being used as an indicator of sustainability performance. The most recent official global footprint estimates are published in the Global Footprint Networks’ Living Planet Report (Hails, 2006). An input-output methodology based on the one developed by Bicknell et al. (1998), and extended by McDonald and Patterson (2003, 2004), is used in this report to calculate the ecological footprints of New Zealand and its regions. New Zealand’s Ecological Footprint The New Zealand ecological footprint is calculated to be 22.9 million global hectares (gha) for 2003-04. This represents the total amount of land needed to sustain the New Zealand population in 2003-04 according to its estimated levels of consumption. By comparison, New Zealand’s 1997-98 ecological footprint was calculated to be 19.9 million gha. This represents an annual average geometric growth of 2.4 percent. The footprint consists of inputs of agricultural land (6.5 million gha), forest land (2.1 million gha), built-up land (1.8 million gha) and of so-called energy land (5.9 million gha). The biocapacity of New Zealand is estimated to be 58.2 million gha. This excludes National Parks, Forest Parks and other non-productive land. On this basis, the ecological footprint of the New Zealand population occupies 39.4 percent of its biocapacity. An analysis of the Balance of Trade for New Zealand indicates that a further role of the New Zealand economy is to provide land-based ecological capital to the rest of the world. Overall, through the export of mainly agricultural products (meat, dairy, wool), but also horticultural products, forestry products and to a lesser extent some manufacturing products, New Zealand exports embodied land to other countries amounting to 15.5 million gha. This means that, in embodied land terms, about 60 percent of the production of the New Zealand economy is channelled into local consumption and the remaining 40 percent into products for exports. In comparison, the land embodied in imported products such as food, motor vehicles, computers, textiles and raw materials for industry is much smaller at 7.5 million gha. The per capita footprint for New Zealand is calculated to be 5.65 gha per person. The United States (+69.7 percent), Canada (+24.7 percent) and Australia (+16.1 percent) all had higher per capita ecological footprints than New Zealand. These differences can be explained by the higher income, higher levels of material affluence and consumption in these countries. There are however a number of countries that have higher per capita income (per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) than New Zealand, but somewhat surprisingly have lower ecological footprints per capita: France (-0.35 percent), United Kingdom (-1.06 percent), the Netherlands (-22.3 percent) and Japan (-23.0 percent). There appears to be a greater ‘decoupling’ between economic growth and the ecological footprint in these countries, seemingly due to higher population densities, diet, lifestyle factors, and uptake of eco-efficient technologies, all of which reduce the use of embodied land. Regional Ecological Footprints Most of this report is devoted to detailed and systematic analysis of the ecological footprints for the sixteen regional council areas in New Zealand, as measured in local (actual) hectares (lha). The regional footprint results are recorded in local, rather than global, hectares due to a severe paucity of data by land type relating regional land productivities to global equivalents. Further conceptual development of the footprint concept and significant empirical work is required before this will be achieved. The largest regional ecological footprint is Auckland’s at 2.0 million lha, which is not surprising given that it has the largest population of any region in New Zealand. Auckland makes up 24.9 percent of the New Zealand ecological footprint. Canterbury is a clear second with an ecological footprint of 1.4 million lha that makes up 17.2 percent of New Zealand’s ecological footprint. Although Canterbury has a similar sized population to Wellington, its higher per capita footprint gives it a much larger footprint than Wellington’s of 0.8 million lha. Waikato (0.8 million lha) also has a similar sized footprint to Wellington. Although population is the main determinant of size of these ecological footprints, the per capita footprint is important and varies according to regional differences in land productivity, consumption patterns, the nature of the regional economy, the degree of urbanisation and population densities. In per capita terms, Marlborough and Otago have the highest footprints at respectively 3.74 lha and 3.30 lha. These findings are however more an artefact of low agricultural land productivity rather than of differences in material consumption and resource use. West Coast (2.83 lha), Hawkes Bay (2.67 lha), Canterbury (2.66 lha), Southland (2.49 lha) and Gisborne (2.45 lha) all have relatively high footprint per capita. Once again, these regions have lower than average agricultural land productivities. These region do not necessarily consume more products and resources per capita, but rather require more land to produce the same amounts. Manawatu-Wanganui (2.26 lha), Tasman (2.18 lha), Waikato (2.07 lha), Taranaki and (2.07 lha) all have ecological footprints per capita near the New Zealand average of 1.97 lha. With similar land productivities the per capita footprint differences of these regions primarily due to differences in consumption patterns. Northland (1.74 lha), Wellington (1.70 lha), Bay of Plenty (1.64 lha), Auckland (1.52 lha) and Nelson (1.47 lha) have the lowest per capita footprints. These regions, with the exception of Northland, are among the most urbanised in New Zealand. Urban settlements are characterised by higher density housing, lower land requirements for wholesale and retail trade and business services, and more efficient use of land for transport network use – all of which reduce the footprint per capita.
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