Nearly eight out of 10 New Zealanders want a balanced approach to development which achieves economic growth and protects the environment.
According to a long-running survey benchmarking New Zealanders’ views on environmental issues:
• belief that climate change is a problem to be dealt with now or urgently remains high at 65% but has fallen from 76% in 2008 (-11%)
• people are continuing to take personal actions because of environmental concerns in about the same numbers as last year
• more people are going to meetings, signing petitions or donating money or time to organisations addressing environmental concerns
• a fall in fuel prices since 2008, combined with the recession, has seen fewer switch to more environmentally friendly cars in the past year
• concern remains high, though it has fallen slightly, on major environmental issues, like the management and sources of energy, maintaining reliable water supplies, keeping rivers clean and waste management.
Similar ShapeNZ surveys were conducted for the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development in 2007 and 2008.
The latest survey covers 1066 people between February 7 and March 9, 2010. Results are weighted to provide a nationally representative population sample. The maximum margin of error is +/- 3% on the national sample.
Among the findings in 2010:
• Vehicle choice: Fewer New Zealanders have bought more fuel efficient lower emissions vehicles in the past year, compared with 2008 when fuel prices spiked at more than $2 per litre for 91 octane petrol. While fuel prices have been lower the number of people buying more efficient vehicles for environmental reasons has slipped from 25% in 2007 and a peak of 27% in 2008 to 16% over the last year. Some 17% chose to sell an older motor vehicle in the past year for environmental reasons. (Comparative figures not available for 2007, 2008).
• Climate change: The number who believe climate change is a problem to be dealt with now or urgently remains high at 65% but has fallen from 76% in 2008 (-11%). The number who believe climate change is not a problem at all is 17% (up from 9% in 2008 and 8% in 2007).
• Energy: Concern over management of energy supply and sources, while at 73%, is down 6% on 2008 and 9% on 2007. Some 49% do not believe New Zealand has a secure long term supply of energy, down from 63% in 2008 (a 14% improvement). The number who think the country has secure long term energy is up from 22% in 2008 to 33% in 2010.
• Water supply and quality: Concern over maintaining a reliable water supply and keeping rivers and waterways clean is at 65%, down from 70% in 2008 and 72% in 2007.
• Waste management: Managing waste and the amount going to landfills continues to rank as a problem with 80% (the same as in 2008, and 1% down on 2007)
• Personal actions: New Zealanders are continuing to take personal actions because of environmental concerns in about the same numbers as in 2008. These include choosing environmentally friendly household products (67% 2008, 67% 2010), recycling/ reusing (90% 2008, 89% 2010), reducing water use (61%, 65%), reducing power use (73%, 73%). In 2010 some 74% are using energy efficient light bulbs (comparative data not available). Some 25% have improved the energy efficiency of their homes and 36% bought energy efficient appliances, while 9% have rented a more energy efficient home. Some 30% have used public transport, and 39% have used their car less for environmental reasons, down from 45% in 2008.
• Activism: New Zealanders have become slightly more active for environmental reasons in the past year. The number choosing to go to meetings or sign petitions is up 3% to 14%. The number donating money or time to an environmental organisation is up 3% to 13% in the past year.
• New Zealand’s approach: New Zealanders want a balanced approach taken to achieve economic growth and to protect the environment. Some 78% choose this approach, while only 11% say economic growth and creating jobs should have top priority even if the environment suffers to some extent. Only 8% say the environment should be given top priority even if it causes slower economic growth and some job losses.
Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says:
“New Zealanders appear to be sticking to their values despite the recession making some of those aspirations less affordable.
“The reported rise in environmental activism is a warning sign for policy makers tempted to ignore the widely held New Zealand values on preserving the quality of life. People want both to preserve our quality of life and have improved incomes and jobs.”
A report on the survey is at www.nzbcsd.org.nz