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Published: 2016-06-14 00:00:00

Waikato people are increasingly concerned about the state of the environment and are taking more personal action to protect it.

That’s one of the key findings of the latest “Your Environment – what matters?” survey of 1250 residents undertaken by Waikato Regional Council.

A staff report on the survey for today’s strategy and policy committee said that since the last survey in 2013 there was a much higher level of concern related to the long-term impacts on society of issues such as global warming, urban sprawl, population increases, land use and over consumption. The proportion of people seeing such matters as becoming a “significant environmental concern” five years into the future was 36 per cent in 2016. That compares to a figure of 10 per cent in the last survey.

This elevated level of concern for the future was reflected in the way people were doing more to protect the environment, the report said.

Asked what actions they had taken recently to protect the environment, 77 per cent said they had recycled (13 percentage points more than 2013), 16 per cent had reduced their rubbish or waste (up 13), 20 per cent had picked up litter (up 13), 19 per cent planted trees (up 3), 18 used a compost heap for garden waste (up 5), and 18 per cent had saved water (up 3).

The author of the staff report to the committee, social and economic science manager Ruth Buckingham, said: “Residents in the Waikato region are demonstrating an increased awareness of how society will affect the environment in the longer term, with residents starting to change their behaviour to reflect more sustainable practices in their homes.”

Also, while just over nine out of 10 people were satisfied or very satisfied with their local environment, the report noted the vast majority (up 3 points at 91 per cent) wanted the council to enforce rules and laws to make sure the environment is well looked after.

Water quality continues to be the most important environmental concern identified (59 per cent of respondents) and was also identified as the key issue that will be the most important in five years’ time.