Aucklanders lack environmental awareness and action

The recently released New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) provides a cross-domain perspective of wellbeing. The environmental side of the Survey is particularly interesting. The NZGSS showed that awareness of environmental pressures is generally high, but that Aucklanders are agnostic to the situation compared to those living in other urban and rural areas.

Aucklanders disconnect on environmental awareness is apparent across all issues, including:

  • Air pollution
  • The state of our oceans
  • The state of fresh waterways
  • Changing weather patterns
  • Plants and animals becoming endangered or extinct.

Fewer Aucklanders believe New Zealand has an issue with any of these factors, compared to both their urban peers and people in rural parts of the country.

The following table summarises the percentage of people believing New Zealand has an issue with each environmental factor (base data available for download here).

Unsurprisingly, given Aucklanders’ seemingly agnostic views on the environment, they are also far less likely to be involved in environmental projects.

Only one out of every six Aucklanders was involved in environmental projects during the March 2019 year, compared to one out of every three rural New Zealanders.

People in other urban areas are also more likely to get involved in environmental projects, with one out of every five people in small urban areas participating in such projects over the March 2019 year.

The apparent lack of awareness and involvement in environmental projects in our biggest city is worrying when one considers what has happened to household emissions over recent years.

Environmental-economic accounts data released last week shows that emissions from households rose 19.3% from 2007 to 2017, mainly due to road transport. This increase was faster than the increase in the number of households (up 9.7% over the period), which implies that households have been less efficient at managing direct emissions since 2007.

New Zealand was one of only ten developed countries, in a sample of 38, that Statistics NZ identified as having seen production of emissions by households increase.

Exploring these types of statistics is timely given the recent trend of local authorities to declare climate emergencies. But to make such announcements more than merely symbolic, it is critical that councils also establish actions which they can take to address emissions in their local area. Any such plans need to start by building up awareness of household and industry contributions to emissions. From this baseline evidence-base it is then possible to explore potential locally-led, and action-based, environmental initiatives.