Urban Quality of Life Survey Results Announced

10 May 2011

Most of New Zealand's urban dwellers continue to perceive they have a high quality of life, according to the results of a nation-wide survey released today.

The biennial Quality of Life survey measures the perceptions of over 6,000 residents living in eight of the country's largest cities, from Auckland to Dunedin. Conducted by research company Nielsen, the survey is jointly funded by the relevant councils, and is part of the wider Quality of Life in New Zealand's Largest Cities project.

Fieldwork was conducted between November 2010 and early March 2011. All interviewing in Christchurch was completed before the 22 February earthquake (but after the first large quake in September 2010).  

The survey report will be available for viewing on the Quality of Life Website  - tomorrow morning (Tuesday 10 May):

Quality of Life website

Overall, 92 percent of respondents rated their overall quality of life positively. Just under one-third (31 percent) of all respondents felt that their quality of life had increased compared to 12 months earlier, 54 percent felt that it had stayed the same and 15 percent felt that it had decreased to some extent.

While half (50 percent) of respondents across the urban areas said they had 'more than enough' or 'enough' money to meet their everyday needs for things such as accommodation, food, clothing and other necessities, one-third (36 percent) said they had 'just enough money' and 13 percent that they did not have enough.

Garry Poole, Chief Executive of Wellington City Council and Quality of Life Project Sponsor, said the 2011 national results are generally positive but that some results - particularly those relating to affordability - should be considered in light of the economic downturn.

"Every city in this survey has its own issues and local debates so I would also caution observers from trying to see the results in terms of a simplistic 'league table' that lacks context.

"It is reassuring that residents in Christchurch, after the first big quake, were more likely than others to rate their quality of life positively. Of course this positive outlook will be critical during the Christchurch rebuild.

Local authorities that participated in the survey were the new Auckland Council, Hamilton, Tauranga Hutt City, Porirua, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Details

The majority (89 percent) of respondents viewed their health positively, responding with a rating of either excellent (22 percent), very good (41 percent), or good (26 percent).  Similar to the 2008 survey, a very small proportion (5 percent) reported that there had been a time in the last 12 months when they had wanted to visit a GP or a doctor, but hadn't - the main reasons provided were related to time, with 42% stating that their GP or doctor had been too busy, while a smaller proportion felt they could not take time off work'.

Almost all respondents felt safe in their homes during the day (97 percent) and after dark (94 percent). Residents of Wellington and Dunedin cities were most likely to feel safe in their homes after dark, or walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark. Feelings of overall safety in central city areas after dark was considerably lower with just over half (54 percent) stating that they felt very safe or fairly safe.  As in previous surveys, the most frequently mentioned reasons for feeling unsafe in city centres was the perception of dangerous people, high profile media coverage of crime, and alcohol and drug problems in these areas. Those more likely to feel safe in their city centres after dark lived in Wellington city, Hutt city and Dunedin city.

Dangerous driving (including drink-driving and speeding) appears to be a big issue for residents across all eight cities, with a total 75 percent of respondents agreeing that this had been an issue in their local area in the previous year, followed by 60 percent who rated car theft or damage to cars as an issue during that time. Graffiti and alcohol or drug problems were also highly rated as issues in the last year across all urban areas (68 percent and 65 percent respectively).

Residents of Porirua city were more likely than other respondents to report that they felt a sense of community in their neighbourhood.

The popularity of the internet as a medium for communication shows clearly in the results, with a growing  proportion of respondents stating that they belong to an online community or interest group (including sites such as Facebook, online gaming sites and eForums). Half (50 percent) belonged to such an online group or community, up from 30 percent in 2008. The workplace and schools remain popular sites for social networking, with 57 percent of respondents feeling that they belonged to such a network. 

Urban areas in New Zealand are becoming increasingly diverse in terms of their ethnic and cultural make-up. The Quality of Life 2010 survey results suggest high levels of acceptance of diversity among New Zealand's city dwellers, with almost two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents feeling that the increasing number of people living in New Zealand with different lifestyles and cultures made their city a 'better' or 'much better' place to live.  Respondents living in Wellington city were more likely than other cities to feel this way (80 percent). People felt diversity brings a broader perspective, new ideas and helps people appreciate other cultures as well as their own.

All respondents, except those living in the Auckland region, were asked a series of questions about their local Council. (Auckland residents were therefore not asked these questions as the newly formed Auckland Council was in the process of becoming established when fieldwork started).

Increasing numbers of residents consider council decision-making to be in the best interests of their city and feel that the public can public can influence these decisions. While starting from a comparatively small base, residents' confidence in council decision-making has increased by 9 percent to 53 percent. Increases have also been seen in the influence people feel the public can have on decision making (up 3 percent to 62 percent) and a 5 percent increase in respondents agreeing that they understood how their council makes decisions (40 percent) and 46 percent agreeing that they would like to have 'more of a say' in what the council does.

Sixty-six percent agreed that they felt a sense of pride in their local area. Again, Wellington residents were significantly more likely to have felt a sense of pride in their area (87 percent) along with those living in Tauranga (71 percent). Key issues affecting residents' sense of pride included crime and safety and general city maintenance.

Only 19 percent of the survey respondents were regular users of public transport (two or more times per week). Half (52 percent) of those using public transport once a month or less often said they had a preference for private transport and 24 percent said they didn't use public transport because they didn't see it as convenient. While almost three-quarters (72 percent) of all respondents agreed that public transport was safe, considerably smaller proportions agreed it was affordable (42 percent), frequent (46 percent) or reliable (47 percent). Auckland regional residents were less likely than those in other areas to rate public transport positively.

Mr Poole said: "This highlights the importance of meeting the challenge to provide affordable and convenient public transport as our cities grow."

Three-quarters (76 percent) agreed that they would change their lifestyle to prevent global warming if they knew it would make a difference.  

About the Quality of Life 2010 Survey

The Quality of Life 2010 survey is the fourth nationwide survey in a partnership between eight councils: Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Porirua, Hutt, Christchurch and Dunedin.

The survey is part of an ongoing series of surveys and research exploring quality of life and well-being issues. Topics covered include:

  • Quality of life
  • Health and well-being
  • Crime and safety
  • Community, culture and social networks
  • Council processes
  • Built environment
  • Public transport
  • Lifestyle - work and study

Information obtained from the survey will be used to help inform central and local government policy makers. 

Survey interviews were conducted over the telephone with a total New Zealand sample of 6,279 people, with a margin of error of +/- 1.2%.  

Local level information on the Quality of Life survey will be available to the media from each of the eight participating councils.