Poll points to freshwater being New Zealanders’ key conservation worry

A mini-poll has identified the quality of our lakes and rivers as being New Zealanders’ leading conservation concern.

The independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird opened the Love Nature poll on Wednesday afternoon; voting closed at midday today.

Votes were placed online, and at voting booths set up by volunteers in 20 locations around the country.

Fifty five per cent of voters selected “Strong bottom lines for freshwater - healthy for fish and clean to swim” as the highest of their top three concerns.

Forest & Bird Group Manager Campaigns and Advocacy Kevin Hackwell says the voting between the issues was close, but that he is not surprised that freshwater quality lead the pack. 

 “Of all New Zealand’s conservation issues, it’s the freshwater situation that has seen the fastest decline of in recent decades.

“New Zealanders are concerned that the $400 million dollars in handouts for irrigation schemes is likely to lead to even higher levels of intensification – and even more damage being done to our waterways. 

The second most popular option selected in Forest & Bird’s poll was “stop risky deep sea-drilling,” which forty nine per cent of voters included amongst their preferences.

“The issue surrounding the serious risk of extinction of Maui’s dolphins, and the Rena disaster remain fresh in the mind to large numbers of New Zealanders.

“Certainly that’s already been the experience of community-based organisations like Forest & Bird, confirmed by these results,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Forty five per cent of voters wanted “immediate steps to clean renewable energy and transport”.

Kevin Hackwell says this appears to reflect a growing frustration in the weak response by consecutive New Zealand governments to dealing with climate change issues.   

“Other conservation threats, mining on conservation land and a desire for more marine reserves show that people are concerned by the recent agenda to open the conservation estate and our oceans to mining and oil and gas drilling. A significant proportion of people – 44% and 37% respectively - felt strongly enough to have selected one of them as a major concern,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Four thousand one hundred and forty nine (4149) people cast votes in the poll. Forest & Bird is not claiming the poll is statistically rigorous, but it has given voters the chance to communicate their conservation priorities to the political parties they intend voting for at the election.