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Research Results

We’re not pure: target waterway clean up

18 Jun 13

We’re not pure: target waterway clean up
Top priorities: clean up fresh water rivers and lakes, stop farm run off

Only 4% of New Zealanders believe the country lives up to its environmentally pure overseas marketing message. Forced to choose yes or no – 55% say “no”.


At the same time, 83.7% of the 2152 respondents to the Sustainable Business Council – Fairfax Media annual Horizon poll on business and consumer behaviour think sustainability is important to providing New Zealand with a competitive trade advantage.


In new questions, respondents were asked what New Zealand most needed to address to live up to its environmentally pure overseas marketing message.


Water quality of lakes and rivers was the primary area of concern, followed by related factors:  Farm run-off, commercial and industrial discharges and waste disposal.


In your view, which of the following does New Zealand most need to address to live up to its environmentally pure overseas marketing message?


Water quality of lakes and rivers



Water quality in coastal areas






Farm run off



Commercial/industrial discharges



Waste disposal



Sewerage treatment



Air quality



Native animals



Native bush and forests



Marine fisheries coastal



Marine fisheries offshore



None of these



Something else (please tell us what that is)



Fonterra has commented on the research findings and its programme to reduce farm run off this this Fairfax story.


The weighted April 30 to May 16, 2013 Horizon survey has a maximum margin of error at a 95% confidence level of ±2.2% overall.


Sustainability and competitive advantage

“Environmentally Pure”


83.7% of respondents felt that sustainably was important in providing New Zealand with a competitive advantage in global markets.  Making up the 83.7% were 38.1% of respondents rating sustainability as very important and 45.6% rating it as important.


Only 4% believe that it has no importance at all.


“Environmentally Pure”


Respondents were again asked whether, in general, they thought that New Zealand lives up to its environmentally pure overseas marketing message.  The 2013 results were similar to 2012 and 2011, although more people now believe that New Zealand does not live up to the message at all.  That opinion has grown from 9% in 2012 to 16.8% in 2013 and is now above the 2011 level of 14.5%


4% of respondents felt that New Zealand totally lived up to its “100% Pure” overseas marketing message.   53%, a similar level to 2012, feel that it mostly lives up to the message.  27% felt that it slightly lives up to the message.


Forced to choose between “Yes” and “No” on this question, 55% selected “No”.


Why Kiwis think this way:


Most comments from respondents were negative.  Many were about pollution of waterways and farm run-off.  A selection of comments follows:


“I think we try. I believe we can and should do more if this is what is important to us as a Country and what we advertise about ourselves.”


“Dairy farming is wrecking the water and soil of the country. There is no regard for the future as far as this goes and it is financially geared with the government seemingly uninterested in actively promoting responsibility by the farmers.”


“I think it has become obvious to New Zealanders and in overseas media that NZ is failing miserably in that area.  The National government's policies on the protecting the environment are abysmal.  Encouraging offshore mining, changing the environmental impact policy, doing shady deals with 'big' business - even changing the LAW to enable potentially disastrous activities to be conducted in our land and waters - all this sends a strong message that NZ is no longer an environmental 'wonderland'.   Shameful.”


“John Key and Simon Bridges trying to mine and drill our pristine environment. So environmentally pure, ends up as a Tui ad.  Yeah right!”


“We are under the illusion we are in a green country only because it appears that way and we believe our own PR message. It is all a sham.”


“The majority of NZ does a reasonable job of looking after the environment but as with everything there are a few that don’t that let down the rest.”


“We lag way behind Europe with regard to legislation and the current right wing government is moving us closer to the US and China...the two countries with the worst record.”


“Our waterways, land and air are all badly polluted, mainly due to our dirty farming methods.”


“New Zealand is a very eco centred country and we are fortunate to have a considerable level of clean environment.”


“Pure image is misleading when we have expanding waste and water quality issue nation-wide, outside of the national parks.”


“It’s probably wrong to generalize but I feel NZ is ahead of many in the area on environmentally "pure" issues.”


“It’s probably wrong to generalize but I feel NZ is ahead of many in the area on environmentally "pure" issues.”


“Deteriorating water quality issues are the most obvious outcome of poor environmental management, but equally the ingress of weedy exotic plants, the amount of rubbish discarded on roadways and mediocre recycling make the 'clean green' marketing push something of a farce.”


“NZ is addressing the issues and not just sweeping them under the carpet. It takes time to change and improve large industry standards etc but we are on the right track mostly.”


“We project this clean and green image when in reality we are no better than any other polluting, over consuming western country. The only difference is we have a lower population density which gives the impression we are clean and green. Things are getting worse not better.”


Earlier results from the poll show there is little doubt that companies discovered by the public to be harming the environment or mistreating people or animals could face a backlash as a result of their behaviour.  63.2% of respondents said they would switch brands.


For further information please contact:

Grant McInman, Manager, Horizon Research Limited, e-mail, telephone 021 076 2040


The Sustainable Business Council has now released the full Horizon Research report on this survey.