The Commissioner's functions are broad and there are numerous environmental issues worthy of investigation. However, time and resources are limited. It is therefore important our work is carefully prioritised and planned, to ensure it is pertinent and ‘adds value’ for Members of Parliament and the public.
The first criterion for adding value is to avoid duplicating the work of others. The Commissioner seeks out areas where her independence can enable progress on difficult or contested topics, and where she is likely to be able to make practical, effective recommendations.
Current investigations include:
New Zealand's native birds
The kiwi is New Zealand’s most iconic species, yet along with many of our other native birds it continues to decline in the wild. Threats to native birds include introduced predators and reduced habitat. Following on from her previous work on pest control and conservation land management, the Commissioner has begun an investigation into what the future might hold for our native birds.
Carbon dioxide and energy
The other half of our greenhouse gas emissions is largely carbon dioxide from energy, including electricity generation and transport. The Commissioner has begun investigating the opportunities to reduce these emissions. This follows on from her earlier work on electricity and climate change, which included reports on smart meters and solar water heating.
Cadmium in soil
Soil is an important resource to New Zealand, forming the basis of our agricultural economy. One possible risk of the way we farm the land is an accumulation of cadmium in soil, a by-product from phosphate fertiliser use. In high concentrations, cadmium is toxic to humans. The Commissioner will investigate the significance of cadmium in New Zealand, and the adequacy of our current management system.