09:53pm Saturday 04 April 2020

New Zealand's environment perceived to be in 'good' state overall but increasing concerns about freshwater issues

The biennial survey uses the Pressure-State-Response framework for state of the environment reporting to assess peoples’ perceptions of air quality, native plants and animals, native forest and bush, soils, beaches and coastal waters, marine fisheries, marine reserves, freshwaters, national parks, wetlands, urban environments, and the natural environment compared to other developed nations. 

The authors of the 116-page published report, which presents analyses and evaluates data gathered in 2010, are Professor Ken Hughey, Associate Professor Geoff Kerr and Professor Ross Cullen of Lincoln University.

New Zealanders’ perceptions of all the main resource areas listed above were tested.  Respondents were also asked to identify the most important environmental issue facing New Zealand and the world.  Twenty-four percent of respondents identified ‘water pollution and/or water’ as the most important environmental issue facing New Zealand, while the single biggest issue the world is facing is global warming/climate change.  This is consistent with results from the 2008 Environment Perceptions survey. 

Freshwater is an area of particular concern to New Zealanders.  Respondents want high quality water and value fresh water for its intrinsic, environmental and recreation values. While they consider development important, they rate maintaining in-stream values more highly.  These views are consistent with the long-term aim of conservation of the range of benefits provided by freshwater.

“To achieve the desired outcomes with regards to freshwater, respondents favour policies, which combine economic, regulatory and voluntary instruments.  They also strongly support a complementary policy of charging for the commercial use of fresh water” says Professor Hughey.

Farming has increased as a perceived main cause of damage to freshwater by 27 percentage points over the 10-year period of surveys (from 24.7% in 2000 to 51.9% in 2010, an increase of 110%).

Professor Hughey says on a positive note perception of management of the environment has improved significantly over the years.  Sixty-two percent of the respondents rated our national parks and New Zealand’s natural environment compared to other develop countries, as either ‘very well managed’ or ‘well managed’.

The report as a whole is a thoroughly comprehensive document and should be a valuable item in the tool kit of everyone involved in environmental planning, management and development in New Zealand or any related activity.  The full report includes recommendations to planners and policy makers.

The report ‘Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment: 2010‘ is available from Lincoln University.

Note: With regards to farming being perceived as the main cause of damage to freshwater, Lincoln University researchers are working in this area to continue to develop farming systems to reduce farm runoff and environmental impacts.

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