State of the Environment reports

State of the Environment report 2018

The State of the Environment Report 2018 was published in March 2019.

The report summarises the Council’s current knowledge about Nelson’s environment across six domains; natural heritage, sustainable land, sustainable water, coastal and marine, and healthy communities. The report identifies the environmental issues Nelson is facing, describes the current state of our environmental assets and highlights Council activities in this area.

State of the Environment Report 2018 (63MB PDF)

Media release 8 April 2019 State of the Environment Report 2018

Annual Monitoring Summaries

The annual monitoring summaries are comprehensive documents that provide the key monitoring results for water, air and bathing water quality in the Nelson region. This annual  'score card' format replaces the 'State of the environment' report format, to succinctly report on the key issues and put more emphasis on what initiatives are being undertaken to maintain and enhance our environment.

Go to the annual monitoring summary page

State of the environment report 2010

Councils need to understand the nature of environmental resources in order to manage them on behalf of the community. This includes understanding the effects of activities on air, soils, waterways, land and the coast. The State of the Environment Report provides a snapshot on the health of our environment based on the research and monitoring Council has done.

The report looks at the huge improvements we have made in improving our air quality so far. It covers the marine environment, which is looking healthy but there are a few issues to be aware of. Most importantly, the state of the environment monitoring shows that fresh water issues are becoming the most pressing environmental problem for Nelson now that good progress is being made with air quality. Addressing water quality issues will also help to improve the quality of the marine environment.  Council is aware that achieving improvements in the quality and health of our freshwater environments will be an ongoing process, just as making improvements to our air quality has been a ten-year exercise.

Download the 2010 State of the environment report (7.5MB PDF) or view a copy at the Nelson City Council office or public libraries.

Monitoring of Delaware Inlet: Broad-Scale Habitat Mapping January 2009

Published January 2011

We all know that the location of Nelson at the head of Tasman Bay is one of its key attractions and is vital for our economy through the port, fishing industry and marine related industries. But did you know that Nelson City Council manages a larger marine area than it does land area?

As a unitary NCC manages from the high tide mark right out to the limit of the territorial sea (the 12 mile limit). That includes approximately 92 km of coastline which includes part of the Waimea inlet, all of Nelson Haven, Delaware Inlet and the Whangamoa Inlet, along with a good sized chunk of Tasman Bay.

NCC with the assistance of local science providers undertakes a number of monitoring and investigation activities in the marine area. These include

  • assessment of the health of our four estuaries to provide a good understanding of their current state and changes that are occurring over time
  • in association with Port Nelson measuring contamination levels within the Port operational area and the wider area of Nelson Haven
  • jointly with Tasman District Council, Marlborough District Council and Biosecurity New Zealand monitoring of invasive marine organisms  

Download the Delaware Inlet: Broad-Scale Habitat Mapping January 2009 report (16MB PDF) 

Previous reports

Beginning in 1999 and through 2004, the Council each year produced a State of the Environment report covering a selected topic such as air quality, coastal resources or freshwater. You can find the highlights of the annual reports here along with summaries and full reports available for download.

The 2003 State of the Environment Report was Nelson's last in a cycle that started in 1999. In 2004 the cycle repeats.


Review 1999-2004

The State of the Environment Report 2004 reviews what we know about the state of our environment in light of the environmental outcomes we anticipate in our planning documents. Council's monitoring of the environment since 1999 has aimed to discover what kind of shape our resources are in and why. Two pieces of legislation introduced in the early 2000s, the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource Management Amendment Act 2003, require Council to compile and make available to the public, at a maximum of five yearly intervals, a review of the results of its monitoring. This report presents a full review of the years 1999 - 2004.

Download the State of the Environment Report 2004 (3.8MB PDF)


Coastal resources

Tahunanui Beach is a Nelson icon, but it is just one feature of a coastline that stretches from Cape Soucis almost to Rabbit Island. This coast includes Delaware, a bay of great importance to local iwi; the Boulder Bank, an internationally significant landscape feature and Port Nelson, an economically vital industrial area.

As a highly used and highly modified coast, it is important we know how this area is holding up in environmental terms. The Council has just released the State of the Environment Report for 2003, on the Nelson coastline.

Key Findings
Recreational water quality

This section of the report departs from the coastline to include river swimming pools, reporting on the results of the last five years bathing water quality results. Monaco and Tahunanui Beach are looking good, but there are other areas of concern including Cable Bay and the lower pools in the Maitai River. In spite of talks with locals at Cable Bay, the occasional poor readings there remain a mystery. In respect of the Maitai, Council staff have taken steps such as testing septic tanks and speaking with local farmers about stock grazing in the lower valley. Newspaper reports over summer have highlighted this issue, with the most recent tests giving an OK for swimming in both Girlies and Sunday Holes.

Waimea Inlet

A Waimea Inlet Survey by Cawthron Institute (supported by Nelson City and Tasman District Councils) is part of a Sustainable Management Fund project to develop monitoring protocols for important estuarine environments. It shows some remedial action is needed where chemicals are leaching from contaminated soils, and also that the invasive pacific oyster is well established. On the brighter side, the effluent discharge from Bell Island has a minimal enrichment effect and spartina has been effectively eradicated without harming habitats.

Tahunanui Beach

Like most beaches this is a dynamic system with periods of erosion and periods of growth. Recent monitoring and a reassessment of some earlier data shows that current beach levels are lower than in 1982, but similar to 1958 levels at either end of the beach. In the centre of the front beach, levels are the highest recorded since surveys began. The Coast Care programme is stabilising the central section of the beach with planting and sand trapping.

Nelson Haven

Monitoring programmes reveal:

  • common port contaminants are below guideline levels, except at Calwell Slipway, Saltwater Creek and the Old Boat Harbour. Remedial work has been undertaken in these trouble spots.
  • at some Port Nelson sites contamination from new antifouling paints has been detected which exceeds international guidelines
  • the extent and density of undaria has remained constant over the last few years.

A long term monitoring programme in cooperation with Port Nelson Ltd is now in place.

Marine Protected Areas

There has been some progress with a taiapure established at Delaware Bay, recognising the area as of special significance to iwi. However, a decision on the proposed North Nelson Marine Reserve is still waiting for approval by Central Government.

The iwi Perspective

Local iwi and Council staff are working on a joint project to develop traditional indicators for priority natural resources in Nelson. Once developed, these will be used alongside scientific indicators in State of the Environment reports. The first stage of this project, a Tangata Whenua World View Statement, has been completed. Work is now underway on developing indicators for freshwater using the Maitahi (Maitai) as a case study.

Download the State of the Environment Report 2003 (3.8MB PDF).


Rivers and streams

The first ‘rules’ in New Zealand for water use were developed by Māori communities to prevent spiritual and physical pollution of sites of significance along with food-gathering areas. In the first century of European settlement there was more concern with controlling the quantities of water, particularly flood water, than with worrying about its quality. By the 1950s, however, the effects of sewage, industrial discharges and agricultural runoff were obvious in many rivers and streams. In the following decades of growing environmental awareness, concern about water quality became more widespread.

Now, under the Resource Management Act 1991, the value of waterways and the aquatic life must be considered for their own sake along with management of the water for a wide range of human uses and values including drinking water, household use, recreation and industry.

Water quality

Extensive monitoring has been carried out to assess the health of Nelson City’s waterways, and the results of this monitoring work forms the basis for the Council’s fresh water management provisions. The chapter titled ‘fresh water quality in the Nelson region’ shows that many of the main streams running through Nelson City are degraded and not an ideal environment to sustain biological life. Nelson’s most impacted waterways are generally small streams in Stoke, Bishopdale, Atawhai and The Glen.

Download the State of the Environment Report 2002 (2.4MB PDF).

1999 and 2000

The State of the Environment 1999: General Report  and 2000: Land Issues are not available online. Please contact the Environmental Policy unit at Council on +64 3 546 0200.


Air quality and transport noise

The air quality section includes:

  • air quality monitoring
  • the sources of the air pollution (most is from domestic heating)
  • the likely health impacts of the air pollution

The noise section includes:

  • port noise
  • airport noise
  • changes in traffic noise levels alongside Main Road Stoke and Whakatu Drive

Download the State of the Environment Report 2001 (2.1MB PDF).