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Published: 2004-02-13 00:00:00

The Waikato’s natural environment, central location and waterways are highly valued by those living in the Region, according to a survey conducted by Environment Waikato.

This week, Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee meeting heard that Waikato people continued to value the environment highly, but were concerned at the deterioration of various aspects of it.

The three-yearly telephone poll surveys community views on the Waikato environment. A total of 1822 people from throughout the Region were asked what they valued most about living in the Region, their thoughts on key issues, whether their local environment was getting better or worse and what they did to help improve the environment.

Asked what they valued about living in the Waikato, people said that amongst all the aspects of their lives, including family and friends, they most valued the natural environment (29 percent) and the Waikato’s central location (25 percent). Waterways (36 percent) and the landscape (27 percent) were the most valued specific aspects of the Waikato’s environment.

The survey found water quality in the Region was more important than ever before and people still expected it to be the major environmental issue in 2008. Animal and plant pests and waste disposal were also important issues for the Waikato, but fewer people thought waste disposal was an issue than in 2000.

By 2008 transport, air pollution and town planning and population increases were expected to grow in importance and waste disposal would again be an issue.

People thought availability of recycling facilities was improving and perhaps as a result, concern about waste as a key issue fell from 24 percent in the previous survey to 7.5 percent.
The survey showed residents were taking actions to help the environment such as recycling and fencing off waterways, but less were adopting more inconvenient actions that helped the environment such as decreasing car use.

More people said they had been recycling (a 40 percent increase since 1998), composting household waste and planting trees, but few said they were reducing electricity, water or reusing materials.

People said traffic congestion was significantly worse over the past few years and vehicle emissions were damaging air quality. Air pollution was seen as the second biggest environmental issue affecting people’s well-being, but few mentioned using the car less in favour of taking the bus, cycling or walking to help protect the environment.

Environment Waikato will use this community feedback to improve its understanding of community views on environmental issues and help plan its work. Copies of the survey results can be obtained from Environment Waikato's Freephone 0800 800 401.