(Published on 20th February 2017)
Addressing water quality remains an environmental priority for New Zealanders according to Lincoln University’s 8th Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment survey. In general the public perceive the state of the natural environment to be adequate or good, and people consider themselves well informed about environmental issues.
The 2016 survey, which remains the only long-running type of its kind in the world, assesses public perceptions of environmental pressures, the state of the environment, and the adequacy of resource management responses.
The authors of the 82-page survey report - Professors Ken Hughey, Geoff Kerr, and Ross Cullen -questioned the public about many aspects of the environment, such as air, native plants and animals, water, biodiversity, soils, beaches, and marine reserves.
New Zealanders thought air, native bush and forests were in the best condition, while rivers and lakes, wetlands and marine fisheries were in the worst state. This continues a long-held pattern of similar responses.
While the management of the environment was considered to be adequate to good (and better than in other developed countries), national parks rated most highly. The worst managed environments were perceived to be rivers, lakes, and groundwater, largely on account of very negative perceptions concerning the management of farm effluent and runoff. In fact, nearly 60 per cent of respondents deemed farming to be one of the three main causes of damage to freshwater, with the other two being sewage and stormwater, and industrial activities.
With this in mind, water-related issues were seen as the most important environmental problem, with respondents indicating an overall belief that growth in production and consumption, as well as an intensification of activities such as farming, urban development and forestry were putting increasing pressure on the environment. Worryingly, given the recent focus on tourism growth, tourism was rated second behind pests and weeds as a major cause of damage to national parks.
The results from the survey underline the importance of work undertaken by NZ Landcare Trust. The Trust has a 20 year history of working closely with farmers landowners and community groups, providing practical help with sustainable land and water management projects. With such a strong public interest in water quality issues, work with farmers on catchment scale projects and farm environment planning is particularly important.
The report Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment: 2016 can be accessed here:
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