New Zealand’s Climate Change Engagement Landscape

pollution china lowresThe Deep South Challenge (DSC) includes a significant Engagement Programme with the goal of helping New Zealanders to make decisions informed by climate science, and to inform DSC research. Designing an effective engagement strategy for the DSC requires a broad understanding of the current climate change engagement landscape in New Zealand and the identification of opportunities for partnership and collaboration. From 23 October to 6 November 2015,1 the Engagement Programme collected information about current climate change engagement activity in New Zealand by distributing a voluntary survey to 372 people spanning 289 organisations representing government, research, business, NGO, education, culture and media. Recipients were encouraged to circulate the invitation further as appropriate. Responses were received from 125 people, some in their individual capacity rather than as organisational representatives. Of these, 111 had substantive content, and 50 allowed at least some level of public reporting of the information provided.

Survey questions addressed who is conducting current or planned climate change engagement activity, what audiences they are targeting, what activities and mechanisms they are using, what gaps they perceive in engagement activity and in the availability of information about climate change science, what priorities they would suggest for DSC research, and whether they would be interested in collaborating or partnering on DSC engagement. The survey also invited more detailed information about respondents’ specific engagement activities. The survey achieved a broad and diverse, but not deep, sampling of sectoral interests with regard to climate change engagement. The most notable gaps in coverage by respondents include media, Māori/iwi and foundations/philanthropic organisations. Given the relatively small sample size and uneven coverage of the survey, the survey results should be treated as an informative indication and not a comprehensive or representative accounting of change engagement activity in New Zealand.

The survey found that a broad and diverse array of organisations and individuals serving different constituencies are currently conducting climate change engagement activities in New Zealand and overseas. They are using a range of engagement methods and tools. Climate change engagement activities more commonly address multiple aspects of climate change (e.g. physical science basis; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and mitigation) rather than a single aspect.

  1. Climate change information needs more commonly identified by respondents included:
  2. Regional-scale and sectoral analysis of climate change impacts and implications in New Zealand over different time horizons, with a “roadmap” for future research delivery
  3. Climate change impacts on sea level rise, marine systems, coastal zones, weather systems, the water cycle and the agriculture sector
  4. Integration of the science of climate change with the science of behaviour change.

Respondents recommended ways to make climate change engagement more effective by:

  1. Making climate change information more accessible to the public
  2. Increasing public receptiveness to climate change information
  3. Improving public understanding of climate change information
  4. Facilitating practical action on mitigation and adaptation.

Climate change engagement initiatives profiled by respondents included a range of activities: research and data collection; information sharing; education and experiential learning; training and certification; advocacy and community organising; public dialogue and consensus; and action on mitigation or adaptation. Many survey respondents expressed interest in working with the DSC in some capacity or suggested other potential collaborators for the DSC.

These survey results could serve as a baseline for tracking changes in climate change engagement activity over time. Future iterations of this survey could attempt to fill gaps in coverage of sectoral interests and assess the impacts of engagement initiatives supported by the DSC Engagement Programme. Complementary research could focus on the target audiences for climate change engagement activities to assess the breadth of their exposure to climate change engagement activity, the depth of their involvement, the effectiveness and perceived credibility of different channels for obtaining information, and their level of understanding and practical application of climate change information.

This report documents the subset of survey findings for which public disclosure was permitted by the respondents. With only minor exceptions, the general trends discussed in this report reflect those associated with the full data set. Neither the partial nor the full data set constitutes a representative sampling of nationwide climate change engagement activity, and all of the findings are indicative rather than conclusive. In that context, those minor exceptions are not material to the use of this report to help inform the design of future climate change engagement activity in New Zealand.


Leining, Catherine and Rhian Salmon. 2017. "New Zealand’s Climate Change Engagement Landscape" Deep South National Science Challenge Paper. Wellington, New Zealand.


Aotearoa Foundation, Deep South Science Challenge