Understanding New Zealanders’ attitudes to the environment

This page has information on research we commissioned to better understand what New Zealanders think about climate change, water and waste.

About the research

We commissioned research on what New Zealanders think about climate change, water and waste. This information is important as we want to focus on issues that are important to New Zealanders.

We also wanted to know who they felt is responsible for addressing issues and what environmental issues New Zealanders need more information on.

In September we repeated parts of the survey to understand how New Zealanders’ views have changed, particularly in light of the Government consultations on the Zero Carbon Bill and the proposed mandatory phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags.

Environmental Attitudes Baseline research [PDF, 6.72 MB] April 2018

Environmental Attitudes research [PDF, 1 MB] September 2018

Key findings (updated to reflect September results where appropriate)


  • Of those surveyed, 50 per cent of New Zealanders are very or extremely worried about the impacts of waste.
  • New Zealanders feel that the responsibility for waste reduction falls on everyone, but 30 per cent think that the Government is not currently doing enough. This has changed since the first survey, 35% didn’t believe the government was doing enough now only 30%.
  • Reducing waste is rated as the second (equal) most important challenge facing New Zealand over the next 20 years behind reducing poverty.


  • Around one in three New Zealanders are worried about climate change.
  • There is support (61 per cent) for a more ambitious emissions target.
  • New Zealanders are optimistic that individuals can make a difference (62 per cent) and are responsible for doing so (76 per cent). However, many show a reluctance to ‘walk the talk’ by changing their behaviours.


  • Of those surveyed, 82 per cent of New Zealanders feel that it is very or extremely important to improve the quality of our water.
  • New Zealanders feel that improving water quality is the responsibility of the Government, businesses, and farmers. However, they do not consider that any of these groups are doing enough.
  • New Zealanders have a lower sense of personal responsibility for water quality, and there is generally low awareness of household behaviours that can impact water quality.