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Survey shows support for climate change action in Murihiku Southland – Environment Southland

Climate change has been ranked the third biggest challenge behind the cost of living and healthcare in a survey of more than 500 Southlanders.

Environment Southland is working collaboratively with mana whenua and the three other Southland councils to develop a regional response to climate change.

The Murihiku Southland Climate Change Perception Survey was done between 16 September and 23 October last year, with 505 people taking part. It was designed to help give the council and the community a better sense of people’s thinking around climate change in the region. A report on the survey was received at today’s Strategy and Policy Committee meeting.

Environment Southland general manager strategy, science and engagement Rachael Millar said the survey results will help shape the development and implementation of Environment Southland’s climate change work programmes.

It covered perceptions of how climate change is affecting individuals and their community in Murihiku Southland – and questions around how people can be better informed about the issues.

The cost of living was rated as the biggest challenge facing Southlanders during the next 10 years, closely followed by access to healthcare. The impacts of climate change was third, followed by quality of infrastructure, retaining and attracting young people, housing affordability and quality, waste minimisation and community safety.

Interestingly, when asked how would they would rate environmental issues facing Murihiku Southland during the next 10 years, the quality of rivers and lakes was considered the most critical environmental issue facing Southland, with climate change rated 8th equal of the 11 issues listed.

“The results show that while environmental issues such as the quality of lakes and rivers, coast and marine, invasive species, pollution and natural hazards are top of mind for people, they generally relate back to climate change in one way or another,” Rachael Millar says.

Responses on climate change showed a degree of polarisation on the issue, with 121 people rating it as the most critical environmental issue facing Southland, while 100 people considered it the least critical environmental issue.

When it came to respondents rating their level of understanding of the impacts of climate change on the region, the average result was 6.8/10 (1 – being very little understanding, and 10 – being very well informed).

Almost two-thirds of respondents (62%) were concerned to some degree about the impact of climate change on Murihiku Southland.

Just 36% of respondents felt the Murihiku Southland community was prepared for the impact of climate change, while 66% of people said they were quite prepared to change their own behaviours to help reduce the impact.

People had taken a wide range of actions during the past 30 days to reduce their impact of climate change. Recycling, growing their own food and reduced waste/rubbish were the top three actions taken, followed by shopped locally, reduced energy use at home and reduced use of plastic.

The general cost of living and the expense of alternatives were by far the biggest barriers to the community taking action to reduce the impact of climate change, Rachael Millar says.

When asked what would encourage people to take more action to reduce the impact of climate change, more information and incentives, and access to funding were common responses.

Just over half of those surveyed (54%) felt that Environment Southland and other councils should be doing more to address climate change-related issues, while 19% were unsure.

“It was pleasing to see people wanting a collaborative approach among councils to avoid duplication of effort,” Rachael Millar says.

There was also broad support for highlighting small changes that collectively make a significant impact.

A Regional Climate Change Inter-agency Group is tackling the issues at a regional level. The first priority for this group has been developing a Regional Climate Change Strategy, with the proposed strategy now open for consultation.

People keen to have a say on the strategy read can read it and provide feedback at: www.es.govt.nz/climate-change-strategy


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