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Top environmental issues: Water, agriculture, climate change

Water, agriculture and climate change are top environmental issues for New Zealanders

17 February 2017

The latest Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment survey, released today, shows that New Zealanders have an overly positive view of our environment, but that we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of our primary industries on nature.

When respondents were asked about the most important environmental issues facing New Zealand, the top response was water, followed by agricultural issues and climate change.

“As New Zealanders, we love our rivers and lakes, coastlines and oceans, and we are becoming more aware of the pressures placed on these resources by our primary industries,” says Forest & Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey.

In the survey, 59% respondents identified farming as a major cause of damage to the environment (up from 25% when the survey began in 2000). 65% of respondents thought management of farming effluent and runoff was bad or very bad. In a similar vein, respondents felt that of all our resources, rivers and lakes were in the worst state.

“The threats facing our freshwater are clearly on the minds of New Zealanders these days,” says Mr Keey. “In election year, our decision–makers would be wise to take note of this.”

There was also a growing perception that the management of our marine fisheries is worsening, with over 35% of respondents saying that our fisheries were poorly or very poorly managed.

As with precious surveys, respondents perceived that our native biodiversity is in a healthy state. “The survey shows that New Zealanders tend to think our forests and native plants and animals are doing well, but they may be surprised to realise that we have over 900 species that are going extinct and another 2700 at risk of joining them.”

Similarly, the survey reveals that New Zealanders perceive that more of our seas are protected in marine reserves than is actually the case. “Many New Zealanders may be shocked to realise how little of our marine environment is protected – less than half a percent of our oceans are in marine reserves.”

“Nature is in crisis, but it’s an invisible one. Very few of us actually see the thousands of albatrosses and petrels killed by the fishing industry each year or the stoats raiding thousands of bird nests every year,” says Mr Keey.

The Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment survey is produced by researchers at Lincoln University, and is released every three years. Forest & Bird is one of several organisations who help to fund the survey, alongside councils, NGOs, and industry groups.

The report can be accessed here.

Notes:
New Zealand has 985 threatened species, plus another 2772 at risk of joining them
80% of our birds are threatened with extinction
88% of our lizards are threatened with extinction
72% of our freshwater fish are threatened with extinction
100% of our frogs are threatened with extinction

It’s estimated that the fishing industry kills around 8000 albatrosses every year around the sub-Antarctic Islands alone.

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