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What matters to you? Waikato survey results released

It’s your environment – but what really matters to you? Waikato Regional Council sought to answer that question during a recent survey of 1250 Waikato residents, with the key findings now published online.

People’s satisfaction with the environment has dropped 19 per cent in three years and is also the lowest since the regional council began this perception survey in 1998.

Water quality continues to be the most important environmental concern identified. But they believe the single most important issue in five years’ time will be human impact/changes, which includes climate change, population increase and urban sprawl.

“The 2019 data shows some significant changes about how Waikato residents perceive their environment and what areas they place value on,” says Waikato Regional Council social and economic science manager, Ruth Buckingham.

“The results confirm the growing concern we are hearing from people about climate change. As a council we have the same concerns, which is why climate change mitigation and adaptation actions are a key focus for us,” she says.

“Of real significance is that residents in the Waikato region are demonstrating an increased awareness of how society will affect the environment in the longer term, with people starting to change their behaviour to reflect more sustainable practices in their homes.

“This period has seen a stronger message about environmental protection from central government at a macro level, but also at a local level, such as with the recent phasing out of single use plastic bags. Also over this time, the ‘mainstreaming’ of eco-friendly options – from transport to cleaning products – has seen residents re-examine their day-to-day consumption and waste habits.

“More people are taking more personal actions to protect the environment than in previous years, such as recycling of plastics, refusing plastic supermarket bags and reducing plastic packaging,” Mrs Buckingham says.

But while the majority of people surveyed – 71 per cent – believe their household is doing everything they can to reduce waste, 89 per cent would like to do more and don’t know how. Ultimately, however, 91 per cent agree that individuals have a responsibility for waste reduction in their district.

People’s overall satisfaction with their local environment shows 72 per cent were either satisfied or very satisfied – down from 91 per cent in the 2016 survey.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen this decline in 21 years of doing this survey, and it reflects people’s response to the overall state of their environment,” Mrs Buckingham says.

While 47 per cent think their local environment has become worse, other survey results indicate this may be due to the increase in concern and sensitivity to environmental issues facing the region.

Results show strong support for environmental regulations, with 81 per cent agreeing that Waikato Regional Council should enforce rules and laws to make sure the environment is well looked after.

“The survey results provide the council with an understanding of people’s environmental awareness, and this helps us evaluate the effectiveness of current policies and understand barriers to people undertaking environmentally beneficial behaviours,” Mrs Buckingham says.

The full report is available online at waikatoregion.govt.nz/tr201909.

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