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Auckland Council The Auckland Plan

Environment and Cultural Heritage explained

 Conceptual graphic of Auckland landmarks such as the sky tower, rangitoto island, and one tree hill.The natural environment is the basis for our existence. It supports and enables all aspects of our society, economy and culture. 

The natural environment is inextricably connected to Aucklanders' sense of identity and place. It affects our health and wellbeing through the mental and physical interactions we have with it, and it provides the clean air we breathe and fresh water we drink.

The natural environment

Auckland's natural environment not only supports its people, but it is home to many special local ecosystems and is essential for the survival of both indigenous wildlife and species from across the world.

For example, the Kaipara Harbour, the Firth of Thames and the Manukau Harbour provide feeding and breeding grounds for many coastal and migratory birds, including threatened species such as the wrybill, bar-tailed godwit and New Zealand dotterel.

Some native species are not found outside New Zealand and are under threat of extinction, such as:

  • birds on islands in the Hauraki Gulf
  • kauri in the Waitākere and Hunua forests
  • unique species in our marine and freshwater environment.

Twelve of the 59 different types of New Zealand's indigenous forest ecosystems are found in Auckland. Harataonga Bay, Aotea / Great Barrier Island has Auckland's most diverse forested area.

We have a responsibility to ensure the natural environment is protected and cared for, both for its intrinsic value and to sustain life for future generations.

Our cultural heritage

The natural environment is part of Auckland's shared cultural heritage.

This term is often used to describe that which we have inherited from past generations and are looking after for the benefit of future generations.

In this plan, the term is used to mean our collective heritage of:

  • air, land, and water
  • biodiversity
  • significant landscapes
  • historic features.

The environment and our shared cultural heritage provide an anchor for the sense of belonging that communities have to their place. These connections are addressed in the Belonging and Participation outcome.

The quality of the natural environment means that Auckland has always been a desirable place to be.

It has allowed people to survive and thrive, and it has given rise to other aspects of cultural heritage such as stories, art, and knowledge as well as the strong connection to sites, landscapes and structures of significance. Auckland’s built heritage is, for example, an important connection for some Aucklanders.  This link and the specific role of built heritage in shaping our homes, places and spaces is explored in the Homes and Places outcome.

The natural environment and our shared cultural heritage have enticed people to invest in Auckland over hundreds of years. They continue to attract migrants and are one reason why so many people call Auckland home.

Environmental protection

Preserving and managing Auckland's diverse natural environments and protecting their quality is a complex and vital responsibility for all Aucklanders.  

It is particularly complex in the context of a growing population and the requirements of the commercial, agricultural, and industrial activities that form part of our economy.

Despite past efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, it has been significantly stressed by the impacts of human activity.

It continues to be negatively affected by the:

  • consequences of past decisions
  • inability of infrastructure to cope with current pressures
  • day-to-day lifestyle decisions people make.

We continue to see negative environmental consequences from historic land use and infrastructure decisions such as:

  • combined wastewater and stormwater networks – which now overflow into our harbours
  • the prioritisation of private over public transport, leading to more vehicle emissions and more road run-off
  • developments through natural water courses and within flood plains which cause downstream impacts and require engineered solutions to manage increased water flows
  • ineffective on-site waste water treatment in some areas.

Find out more by reading The Health of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland’s Natural Environment in 2020 (PDF 18.3MB) report.

Doing better in the future

As Auckland grows we must do things differently. We have to achieve better environmental results through our decision-making.

There are also new problems to address.

Heat waves, droughts and tropical storms are part of our lives. However, the climate change impacts we are now beginning to experience are likely to worsen, and will have major long-term effects on how we live.

Other threats are becoming more common too. Our kauri are under threat from kauri dieback, and our marine environments are under pressure from pest species. We can also expect more frequent threats to biosecurity as the climate changes. Activities on land continue to impact our rivers and marine environments, through contaminants like sediment, heavy metals and nutrients.  Waste and litter continue to impact our natural environment as well, particularly our streams and harbours.

We must take action to reduce and mitigate these threats and minimise the impacts on Auckland's people and cultural heritage. 

Protecting, restoring and enhancing the natural environment is critical to ensuring our future.

How we track progress

We will track progress against a set of measures.

The measures for this outcome are:

  • the state and quality of locally, regionally and nationally significant environments
  • marine and fresh water quality
  • air quality and greenhouse gas emissions
  • protection of the environment
  • resilience to natural threats
  • treasuring the environment

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