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What "Middle Majority" want: Keep our lifestyle

23 April 2006

Media Release

What "Middle Majority" Kiwis most want: Keep our lifestyle

New Zealanders, when discussing what the country should be like in 20 years' time, say the most important things to keep are aspects of our lifestyle and attitudes towards life.

In six focus groups convened at Auckland and New Plymouth, people representing the "middle majority" New Zealanders – those without extreme views on economic development at all costs, or environmental protection at all costs – have revealed what they most want maintained for the future.

This includes keeping a clean and green lifestyle which allows people to go fishing, hiking, and to the beach, and to also maintain their general quality of family life.

The "middle majority" Kiwis also believe businesses have a role to play in this sustainable development – and see it as a basic responsibility rather than something a company deserves any kudos for.

Probed on a range of 20 topics, the middle majority Kiwis revealed higher levels of concern over the future of their fresh water and energy supplies. They are concerned over waste management – but are cynical about how recycling is managed.

They express concerns over how New Zealand will cope with population growth and achieve a balance between urban sprawl and regional development.

They think the skill shortage issue is important and link it to making sure New Zealand has wage rates which compete with those overseas.

Climate change generates fierce debate, with worries that recent "freak" weather events are signs of things to come – but find the Kyoto protocol debate frustrates and angers them.

They also give the thumbs down to "buy local" campaigns – saying its hard to define what is locally made any more and they are unwilling to make the trade off between locally made goods and paying less for imported ones.

The research was carried out for the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development - whose 51 member companies' $33 billion in annual sales equate to about 28% of the country's gross domestic product – to see what Kiwis understood about sustainable development, and what issues they most strongly related it to.

The focus group research was followed by a nationwide poll last November.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says November's poll, conducted among a nationally representative sample of 750 people aged 18+, showed 86% of New Zealanders understand sustainable development to be important because they want to look after the things that are good about our country and make sure they are there for future generations.

When sustainable development was expressed in these terms 60% were interested in the concept, 36% very interested.

Some 75% of respondents believe it is important for individual businesses to play a role in sustainable development.

The council today releases is qualitative and quantitative research from last year – and another nationwide poll taken in the last week of March this year – which reveals the impact policies to preserve the New Zealand lifestyle can have on soft voters.

Some 39% of people who have a party vote preference say they could change their mind. And 49% say they are more likely to vote for a party which places an emphasis on preserving the New Zealand quality of life.

Mr Neilson says this may explain why policies providing for tax cuts alone have not been sufficient to deliver a majority.

"There is a deep seam of concern to achieve economic growth but, at the same time, to protect our environment and everything we most cherish about our New Zealand way of life. The research exposes an opportunity for the party that can persuade the New Zealand public that it is the custodian for preserving all that's best about New Zealand," Mr Neilson says.


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