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  Environment » Environmental Information » Environmental indicators » Social and economic: monitoring and reporting » People’s environmental knowledge » Methods - how we monitor

Methods - how we monitor

Where and how we collect the data

People’s environmental awareness, attitudes, knowledge and behaviours are identified through repeated cross-sectional surveys. The structure of the questionnaire measures the key concepts of environmental awareness (knowledge, awareness and concern), attitudes, and behaviour.

Monitoring sites

A random selection of individual households for 1,095 of those surveyed, followed with a convenience sample of 155 intercept interviews at various locations in the Waikato region.

Monitoring frequency

Surveys will be repeated every three years, with the next survey planned for 2019.

Monitoring history

This survey has been carried out six times:

  • June 1998 (benchmark survey)
  • October to November 2000
  • September to October 2003
  • September to October 2006.
  • January to March 2013
  • February to March 2016

The table below shows the range of knowledge statements asked over the years (noting that no knowledge statements were asked in 2003).  The 2016 survey had five knowledge statements. As indicated in the table, the statements have varied in terms of the number and type of statement asked.  There have however been two consistent statements asked.  In four surveys, the following was asked:

Pollution in the region’s rivers and streams comes mainly from farmland.

The statement below was asked in three surveys:

In this region, discharges of treated human sewage are a major cause of pollution in our waterways.

Range of knowledge statements asked for each survey over the years*

1998

2000

2006

2013

2016

Pollution in the region’s rivers and streams comes mainly from farmland

 

*

*

*

*

In this region, discharges of treated human sewage are a major cause of pollution in our waterways

 

 

*

*

*

Air pollution comes mainly from people's home fires

       

*

Most air pollution comes from people's home fires

 

 

*

 

 

Pollution in the region’s rivers and streams comes mainly from industry

 

 

 

*

*

The biggest driver of climate change is the increase in greenhouse gases from human activity

 

 

 

 

*

Most of the oil in our waterways comes from spillage from industries

 

*

*

 

 

Grazing stock in the native bush is not harmful to the bush

 

*

 

 

 

Land-based activities have an effect on the health of our coasts and harbours

 

*

 

 

 

Most stormwater drains/road gutters drain directly into streams, rivers or the sea

*

*

 

 

 

Pouring used cooking oil down the sink is one good way to dispose of it

*

 

 

 

 

Most air pollution is caused by cars and trucks

*

 

 

 

 

People create too much rubbish

*

 

 

 

 

*Note that no knowledge statements were asked in the 2003 survey.

Measurement technique

  • The 2016 survey utilised a sequential mixed method approach to interviewing. This involved both telephone (n=1,095) and intercept interviewing (n=155). Telephone interviewing was initially used to canvass the population, while intercept interviewing was used to ensure demographic representation of the region was achieved. Thirteen per cent of the total sample was collected via intercept interviewing. The questions were developed, reviewed and pilot-tested before inclusion in the final survey.
  • Age and gender weightings have been applied to the final data set. Weighting gives greater confidence that the final results are representative of the Waikato region population overall and are not skewed by a particular demographic group. The proportions used for the gender and age weights are taken from the 2013 Census (Statistics New Zealand).
  • The final sample size provides a maximum margin of error of +/- 2.77 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence interval. 

How this indicator is compiled

In 1998 and 2000, people were asked: ‘Do you agree or disagree with this statement?’ and then read a set of statements about things which might harm the environment. In 2006, they were asked: 'Could you please tell me if you agree or disagree with each?'  In 2013 and 2016 respondents were asked to rate each statement using a five point scale, specifying whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or neither agree nor disagree with each statement. Therefore, comparisons over time should be interpreted with caution.

Since the survey began a mix of negative and positive statements have been used.  The negative statements' polarity have been reversed for the analysis.

See monitoring history for the format of the statements.

The scores of each statement were added together to give a rating out of four in 1998 and 2006, and a rating out of five in 2000, a rating out of three 2013 and a rating out of five in 2016.  The regional result was compiled into the per cent of people giving each score and the average was calculated.

In 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2013 the mean scores were 3.15 out of 4 (or 79 per cent), 3.31 out of 5 (or 66 per cent), 2.03 out of 4 (or 51 per cent) and 1.26 out of 3 (or 42 per cent) respectively. In 2016 the mean score was 2.38 out of 5 (or 48 per cent).

Limitations

There are two limitations to using telephone questionnaires to assess people’s environmental perceptions:

  • Telephone questionnaires are biased towards people owning landline telephones, and therefore may miss some people in the community. Intercept interviewing was added to the method this year as younger residents are becoming increasingly difficult to reach using telephone interviewing alone.
  • Many factors influence people’s environmental knowledge, including where and how people live, what news media items they have recently seen and who they are. These influences are not measured by quantitative questionnaires.
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