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Cost Of Living And Housing Among Major Concerns For Kiwis

New research reveals New Zealanders are anxious about the cost of living and housing availability in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colmar Brunton’s Better Futures report released today in conjunction with the Sustainable Business Council (SBC) surveyed 1009 New Zealanders, finding the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on livelihoods and wellbeing.

Head of Colmar Brunton Sarah Bolger says despite New Zealand coming through the pandemic in a better position than expected, the data shows the effects are ongoing, and few know what to expect in 2021.

"People are feeling worn out by 2020 and mental health issues are bubbling under the surface. There may even be a bit of survival guilt as we hear from friends and family overseas as to how things are playing out.

"The cost of living has been a top 10 concern for many years. This year, Covid-19 has pushed it to the top of the list. This comes along with the associated increase in pressure on housing and land.

"This is in line with new data from Statistics NZ, that revealed an increase in average annual housing costs. Lower income households are especially feeling the heat."

Public attention on immediate, rather than long-term issues

SBC executive director Mike Burrell says New Zealanders have been understandably focused on their immediate needs, such as housing availability and the cost of living.

Mr Burrell says for participants, climate change seems a threat much further in the distance than the economic threat which is causing them pain.

"Some 49% of participants think climate change problems are in the future.

"The fact is that the Covid response and recovery needs to be linked to the policies and investments we put in place now that will allow New Zealand to mitigate and adapt to the much greater threat that climate change represents," he says.

Ms Bolger says public concern around climate change has dropped this year with research suggesting New Zealanders view Covid-19 as having a positive effect on the environment, but they still want the Government to do more.

"Last year, almost half of New Zealanders said they want the Government to lead the way on the issue of climate change, and this year is no different.

"The Government has prioritised climate action, and the Climate Change Commission has recently released its draft advice to Government for consultation, so it will be interesting to see the country’s progress over the coming year."

Commitment to sustainability continues to grow

New Zealanders’ commitment to sustainability continues to gather momentum with 36% of Kiwis committed to living a sustainable lifestyle.

There continues to be a notable uplift ranging from 3-11% in reported behaviours around reusing, reducing, repairing and recycling.

In addition, businesses are more clearly communicating their sustainability story.

Mr Burrell says, "there is more and more evidence to show that companies that outperform in social and environmental areas achieve higher valuations and higher margins - so there are many reasons to feel good about the role business is playing.

"It’s important we build back better. Many Kiwi companies are communicating this with their customers, and consumers are starting to notice.

"We are seeing more and more examples of retailers trialling new store concepts like refill stations, bringing more circularity in to our consumption. We also see companies taking a lead on sustainability, not just in customer-facing activities but also in the way their business operates."

Waste continues to be an issue. Ms Bolger says while plastic has had its place in health and safety during the pandemic, Kiwis are much more aware of what happens with waste.

"It is clear from the results that the events of 2020 have changed the tide on how sustainability is viewed in Aotearoa. We have dipped our toes into a new future, defined by more ethical consumer decision making.

"We need to find ways to eliminate confusion so that there are no seeds of doubt when it comes to consumers being able to make sustainable choices that also make them feel good.

"There is also still plenty of scope in New Zealand for improvement, with 54% saying the brands they like don't do ethical or sustainable versions.

"Brands have an important role to play in helping people with sustainable actions and the market for sustainable products and services is growing. Therefore, it’s in the interest of business to meet the needs of their customers."

The top 10 concerns for New Zealanders:

1. The cost of living +2

2. Protection of NZ children -1

3. Availability of NZ housing +5

4. Sale of NZ land to foreign buyers +10

5. Violence in society -1

6. Build-up of plastic in the environment -4

7. Not enough waste is recycled +7

8. Not having access to good, affordable healthcare -3

9. Suicide rates -3

10. Overpackaging, non-recyclable packaging and landfill NA

The maximum margin of error is approximately ± 3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level.

Better Futures 2021 is online here.

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