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Published: 2001-03-16 00:00:00

Public expectations of a clean environment are rising, sometimes ahead of what can be done to improve environmental health, a recent survey of Waikato people’s views has shown.

The results of an environmental perceptions survey were presented to Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee this week. The survey, conducted in November, showed a strong environmental ethic in the Region, with water and waste the top environmental concerns.

Water quality in local streams, rivers and lakes was considered to be getting worse by 29 percent of people, while 45 percent felt it had stayed the same. Many were concerned about water pollution from industry, towns, and farm runoff.

Cr David Peart said people’s perceptions were often driven by what they saw and pollution was actually improving rather than worsening.

“It’s a good barometer of what people are feeling, and they have caught up and in some cases passed our ability to make changes.”

The community survey questioned 1873 people about their perceptions of their environment, asking what they felt were the most important issues, whether aspects of the Region’s environment were improving or getting worse, and what concerned them most about the environment.

Water quality issues were most important, with waste and air quality emerging as increasingly important. Other issues causing concern were loss of natural character on the coast, soil and land erosion, urban sprawl and the state of native bush and wetlands on private land.

Findings in some areas emphasised local concerns, with 64 percent of Taupo people rating water quality as their greatest concern compared with 26 percent in the rest of the Region. Taupo is facing issues of declining water quality in the Lake.

People rated the environment as more important than economic growth. People recognised they had a role in protecting the environment and were increasing their personal environmental actions. Cr Evan Penny said in Thames Coromandel about 20 to 30 percent were recycling but a much larger number would if they knew how.

“There is a high level of resolution developing in the community and we need to move on these issues.”

The more detailed findings of the survey will be analysed and released shortly.