Water policy is top of mind…

31 January 2019

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc)
Media release, 31 January 2019
For immediate release

Over the summer break a new nationwide Colmar Brunton poll for Fish and Game revealed that water pollution was the number 1 issue for Kiwis. Some 82% of those polled were very concerned about the issue. Climate change, child poverty and housing were all ranked lower than water quality. Earlier this week, the Dominion Post spotlighted attempts to shape New Zealanders views on water quality. Water quality is a hot topic with important social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts.

“As part of NZIER’s 60th birthday celebrations, the NZIER undertook with its own resources research to further understand New Zealanders concerns about water quality and found that river visibility (water clarity) was most valued by Kiwis”, said NZIER Principal Economist, Chris Nixon.

Uncertainty about public water values drove the research

We wanted to further understand New Zealanders’ water quality views because there is real uncertainty about how we use and value water as competition for water increases. This is a teaser – an opening shot – in what we hope is a longer conversation about the management of water in New Zealand.

We conducted an on-line survey of the general public, teenage school-students, and invitees to NZIER’s 60th anniversary celebrations to further understand preferences and detect any differences between groups with society. As part of this we zeroed in on:

  • The importance of river visibility (water clarity)
  • The role and importance of flora and fauna (and contribution to biodiversity)
  • The proportion of rivers that are swimmable
  • The willingness to pay an annual levy towards improving water quality.

Values were fairly clear

We found that:

  • River visibility was the number 1 key issue for the general public
  • Improved flora and fauna were highly sort after
  • Swimability was not anyone’s top priority.

Interestingly there was some push back on taxing to improve water quality. 60% of the general public were not happy to pay an extra $50 per year to increase flora and fauna in our rivers.

We set out to shine a light on public views around water quality. We found that different groups within society had similar preferences, with water clarity being the number 1 issue for the general public. Although we hasten to add that this brief survey did not specifically include iwi or those who do not have access to a computer.

Insight 78 can be read here.

For further information please contact:
Chris Nixon
Principal Economist
021 633 127, chris.nixon@nzier.org.nz

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