Posted on 07 April 2017

What do Kiwis value about our seas?

New Zealanders in Nelson, Golden Bay and Tauranga told us what they appreciate most about our coastal and marine spaces.

In December and January, Dr Kate Davies and the Mauri Moana research team visited local events and markets in Nelson, Golden Bay, Tauranga and Waihi to ask New Zealanders what they value most about our coastal and marine spaces. They spoke to 308 people; 157 in Tauranga and Waihi, and 151 in Nelson and Golden Bay.

“It was great,” says Dr Davies. “People were so generous with their time. We met lots of people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, which was hugely important because having a good representation of New Zealanders gives us a better idea of what the high priority social and cultural values are.

“Identifying these often intangible values is important because they are hard to measure – but the impact on society and people’s wellbeing and quality of life when they’re gone is massive. Knowing what’s important to Kiwis means that we can develop ways to include these values when we’re making decisions about how to protect and use marine resources.”

Incorporating social and cultural values as well as economic factors into decision making is an important element of ecosystem-based management (EBM).

Unique Kiwi culture?

The team is still analysing the data, but say it’s already clear that they have got important insights about how Kiwi culture and values are unique compared with other countries. For both Tauranga/Waihi and Nelson/Golden Bay, ‘peace’ was the top value.

“People used a variety of words and phrases – like quiet, relaxation, secluded, not crowded, not many boats or people – to describe how coastal and marine spaces benefit them. The majority of people said they went to the beach or the sea to revitalise, reflect and get away from it all,” says Dr Davies. “I’ve never seen a study where peace was the top value associated with an environment or public space – or even in the top five! This seems to be a unique Kiwi attitude.”

Why does it matter?

There is already interest in the study from planners, policy makers and others because it confirms that there are important values that need to be identified and/or better understood so they can be incorporated into decisions about using and protecting marine resources.

Dr Davies is presenting the preliminary findings at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting tomorrow, 8 April, in Boston.

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Mauri Moana, Mauri Tangata, Mauri Ora
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We explored ways to assess the values New Zealanders hold for the marine environment.