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New Zealand youths' top concern revealed in Colmar Brunton poll

A Colmar Brunton poll on what matters to New Zealanders has for the first time included youth voices.

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Head of Colmar Brunton Sarah Bolger talked about the trends of the latest poll. Source: Breakfast

The new research from Colmar Brunton, in conjunction with the Sustainable Business Council, provides insights into Kiwis' evolving attitudes and behaviours around the issues of sustainability.

Head of Colmar Brunton Sarah Bolger told TVNZ1's Breakfast today it was the first time the poll included a youth voice.

The top concern for adults was on the protection of New Zealand children at 71 per cent, while the top concern for youths was on suicide rates at 64 per cent.

It's the 11th time running the poll, with the usual 1000 adults from throughout the country surveyed, but this time 500 people aged 13 to 17 were also questioned.

"It was really interesting to see how the youth voice came through last year with the climate strikes and given the youth voice that is happening globally we felt it would be interesting just to see how New Zealand children or teenagers felt about some of the issues with regards to sustainability and the environment and things like that," Ms Bolger said.

Attitudes of the young people were similar, however she said their priorities were different.

"What we saw was that for example climate change which appears in the top 10 list of concerns for children, it doesn't necessarily appear in the top 10 for adults and that's probably on the back of the strike that were happening last year."

"It's very clear from this research that New Zealanders believe that the Government and business should be taking the lead on issues of sustainability and the way that they are actually calling for that is through own behaviours. Many of them are actually saying that they are trying very hard to be more sustainable and they would like to be able to be more sustainable."

Climate change remains a real concern for at least half the population, particularly women with statistics showing a larger growth in women in the past two years. 

The poll showed 15 per cent of New Zealanders are now always or mostly eating plant-based meals - a 50 per cent increase on a year ago, but despite last year's Government ban on single-use plastic bags, 69 per cent of those surveyed said they were still highly concerned about the build-up of plastic in the environment.

The results also showed 48 per cent of people had switched brand on products to be more sustainable, where that was on a soap brand or new vehicle.

"People are gradually realising that there are choice that they can make and they're really conscious of the impact that they are now having on the planet, obviously some more so than others, but there is a real desire for action," Ms Bolger said.

Of those surveyed, 35 per cent of respondents said environmental policies will influence how they vote.

Ms Bolger said the environmental agenda came through strong in the last election, and given the poll results, she felt it was important that leaders in Government take note.

"Given that there are changes in behaviour happening and we are calling for this, they would be right to listen to what Kiwis are wanting."