Measuring progress using a sustainable development approach allows a broad view to be taken of New Zealand’s long-term environmental, economic, and social progress. There are many ways to define sustainable development. The definition used by Statistics New Zealand is:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable development means ensuring that well-being is at least maintained over time. The principle of fairness within and between present and future generations should be taken into account in the use of environmental, economic, and social resources.
Putting these needs into practice requires living within the limits of the natural environment.
This definition is an interpretation of the Brundtland definition (adopted by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987). Statistics NZ has chosen to take a ‘capital approach’ to measuring environmental, economic, and social progress. This approach was endorsed by the international working group convened by the OECD, the United Nations Economic Committee for Europe (UNCE), and Eurostat (part of the European Commission). Our conceptual definition of sustainable development is discussed in more detail in Measuring New Zealand’s Progress Using a Sustainable Development Approach: 2008.
We selected a set of indicators to measure environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainable development. The results of the indicators answer four main questions, based around four key concepts:
- Meeting needs – how well do we live?
- Fairness – how well are resources distributed?
- Efficiency – how efficiently are we using our resources?
- Preserving resources – what are we leaving behind for our children?
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