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Published: 2013-09-19 00:00:00

It’s pretty much “steady as she goes” when it comes to the issues Waikato communities are focused on, says the co-ordinator of a new report prepared for Waikato Regional Council and local councils.

But there’s a slight rise in the numbers saying they’re concerned about the economy in general.

Concern for the state of the environment again features prominently in people’s minds, as does a desire for better education opportunities.

The report – the third three yearly Regional Waikato Perception Survey undertaken by the regional council – found job and business opportunities, financial and economic matters, and environmental concerns still topped the list of issues Waikato people are concerned about.

“So it’s really steady as she goes for Waikato communities on that front,” said the report’s co-ordinator Dr Beat Huser, of the regional council’s resource information group.

“The 2013 findings are little changed from 2010 although we are seeing a rise in those identifying economic issues as one of their primary concerns.”

For example, there was an 8 percentage point increase to 13 per cent in the numbers of people mentioning that local councils should focus more on financial and economic issues, Dr Huser said.

He said it was not surprising that issues to do with people’s economic well-being had featured prominently.

“The last survey came just after the big global financial crisis. The answers to the latest survey indicate that people are still somewhat nervous about their economic prospects given ongoing financial concerns.

“People are also still very concerned about the state of the environment and want to see it protected.”

The results of the survey, paid for by participating councils, helps the regional and district councils to identify, prioritise and respond to communities’ views.

The survey covers people’s views on their quality of life, availability and proximity to schools and other educational and recreational facilities, feelings of safety, sense of pride in their communities, respect for different cultures and engagement in local council processes.

Broadly speaking, the results of the survey across the board were similar to the two earlier ones in 2007 and 2010 with, for example, 85 per cent of respondents being happy with their quality of life.

“That Waikato figure is in line with a recently published United Nations report quoting a figure of 87 per cent for New Zealand as a whole, making it one of the happiest countries in the world,” Dr Huser said.

He stressed that results in individual districts vary. “Data at a local level will help relevant councils in their forward planning processes to address specific issues, while the regional results provide a broader perspective.”

The full report is available at http://www.choosingfutures.co.nz/Publications/.