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Result of the next election could depend on how parties protect New Zealanders' quality of life

Results of poll conducted by UMR Research - 29/09/06

A nationwide poll released earlier this year shows the outcome of the next general election could depend on how parties show they will promote economic growth ­while at the same time preserving New Zealand's quality of life.

The research shows 47% of voters have already made a firm party vote choice ­ but another 39% say they may change their minds before the next election.

And 49% of voters with a current voting preference say they would be more likely to be attracted to a party which places an emphasis on preserving the New Zealand quality of life.

The poll, conducted by UMR Research for the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, shows a party which concentrates on achieving sustainable economic growth ­ while preserving the New Zealand quality of life could significantly improve its chances of forming the next government.

With a 1.5% difference only between Labour and National in the 2005 general election result, the poll indicates that the party or parties which can persuade the public they are the best custodians for the New Zealand quality of life have the potential to be in power for a long time.

Those who have a voting preference, but who might change their minds based on policies which protect the quality of life,­ are more likely to come from the centre left (Labour 46%, Greens 11%). However, 39% of those who have chosen National also say they could change their minds.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the poll, conducted among a nationally representative sample of 750 people aged 18+ in the last week of March, also sends a telling message to smart policy makers that voters' support can be driven to parties proposing to do more about

  • energy supply (18% say this would make them "much more likely" to switch their vote)
  • skill shortages (16%)
  • fresh water supply (16%)
  • waste reduction (14%)
  • the effects of population growth (10%)
  • the ageing population (9%)

The Business Council, ­a group of 51 companies whose $33 billion in annual sales equates to 28% of the country's gross domestic product,­ says the polling was done to find out what political impact sustainable development policies could have.

It follows other qualitative and quantitative Business Council research, conducted late last year and also released at the same time, to determine what people understood about sustainable development and the related issues which matter most to them. This research also included a nationwide UMR poll of 750 people aged 18+.

"What we have is a stunningly loud message from 86% of New Zealanders that they understand sustainable development to be important because they want to look after the things that are good about our country and make sure they're there for future generations," Peter Neilson says. "Decision makers often assume the public don't think about the long term. This polling shows voters are concerned about the long term issues and want to know what they can do to help.

"There is widespread support for sustainable development when it's expressed as growing the economy and developing the country in a way which balances growth, protects the environment while also exercising social responsibility."

When sustainable development was expressed in these terms 60% were interested in the concept, 36% very interested.

Mr Neilson says the research also has a message for business: Some 75% of respondents to the nationwide poll taken last year believe it is important for individual businesses to play a role in sustainable development.

The Business Council, ­ whose members include a wide cross section of sectors, including major telecommunications, banking, accounting, energy, motor vehicle, manufacturing and retail interests,­ says it wants political parties to understand the importance of sustainable development policies to the electorate.

It wants long-term multi-party agreements on policies affecting climate change, reducing green house gas emissions, securing the energy and water supplies, while improving social outcomes.

"We believe businesses must make profits, and that there are practical, commonsense ways to do this while also protecting the environment and improving our people's quality of life," Mr Neilson says.

An example is the council's recent proposal to Government to provide cash grants of up to $3000 to people who first register new and imported fuel-efficient, low emission cars. People buying these vehicles would cut fuel use by up to half, while launching the first quick attack on one of the country's major emission sources. It would help cut the country's emissions liability under the Kyoto protocol, now estimated at more than $1 billion ­ while putting money into Kiwis' pockets.

"When you probe into what New Zealanders really want ­you tap into a huge mega trend which says 'get on with growing in a way which protects our quality of life'. It may explain why tax cuts and similar policies don't win elections on their own. Kiwis have a far deeper respect for the environment ­ including the social environment - and enough are open to considering a vote for the party which best addresses sustainable development," Mr Neilson says.

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