Our forests, pastures, rivers and cities will be mapped by a government research project collecting information for councils and industry organisations over the next four years.
Innovation Minister Wayne Mapp said land cover research was moving forward and needed to apply the best in science for the sake of our environmental and economic health.
A total of $1 million a year for four years has been allocated to the research, which uses satellite technology, geospatial mapping techniques and advanced computing power.
“Up-to-date information about vegetation, water sources and the built environment is critical for the success of natural resource industries such as agriculture and forestry,” Dr Mapp said.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said the Land Cover Research Programme would provide "vital information about our rural and urban environment for the natural resources sector, regional councils and research organisations to use".
“Using the best in modern technology, we can thoroughly map New Zealand’s changing land use so we can quantify the pressures on water quality and biodiversity.
The project will build on the Ministry for the Environment’s Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS), developed to report New Zealand’s carbon emissions to the United Nations.
Crown research institute Landcare Research will take the lead; the Ministry for the Environment, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry and regional councils are also involved.
Gary Bedford, director-environment quality for the Taranaki Regional Council and chairman of the combined councils' Science Advisory Group, said water resources, soil and biodiversity were under increasing pressure from land use intensification.
“The decision will be well supported by all councils as the current Land Cover Database is a nationally important source of data for councils to monitor and manage land cover, land use and land use change.
"An updated database will be valuable to support council policy setting and for State of the Environment monitoring and reporting."