4602.0 - Environmental Issues: People's Views and Practices, Mar 1998  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/11/1998   
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November 26, 1998
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Environmental problems concern 71% of Australians

An estimated 71% of Australians are concerned with at least one specific environmental problem, compared with 68% in 1996 and 75% in 1992, according to the results of an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey released today.

Air pollution continues to be the environmental problem of greatest concern for Australians, with 32% of people reporting this as their major concern. This compares with 31% of people in 1996, 34% in 1994, and 40% in 1992.

The ABS survey publication Environmental Issues, People's Views and Practices states that most people (46%) reported they felt that over the last 10 years the quality of the environment had declined (compared to 44% of people in 1996). Twenty six per cent of people believed the quality of the environment had stayed the same, and 24% stated they thought it had improved over the last 10 years.

Some other survey results from the publication include:
  • Sixty-four per cent of respondents stated that information on the environment influenced their behaviour or actions.
  • The most popular means to formally register an environmental concern was via a signed petition (38%), closely followed by use of a letter (35%).
  • Refillable containers were the most widely used environmentally friendly product used by households (61%), followed by recycled paper (48%). Organically grown fruit and vegetables were used by only 18% of households.
  • Around 79% of households reported using flysprays or baits inside their dwelling, with the highest use in Queensland (84%) and Western Australia (81%). Victoria had the lowest use with 74%.
  • Eighteen per cent of households used a filter for their drinking water (compared with 15% in 1994).
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) of Australian households were satisfied with the quality of their mains tap water. Of those who were not satisfied, the main problems were taste (62%), chlorine (30%), and dirt in the water (18%).
  • Around 53% of households took no specific water conservation steps in their dwellings (compared with 54% in 1994), while 39% took no steps to conserve water in their garden.

Details are in Environmental Issues, People's Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0) available from ABS Bookshops. A summary of the main survey findings are available from this site.

State and Territory highlights are outlined overleaf.

State and Territory Data

NSW: Rated highest for air pollution as the environmental problem of greatest concern (32%). Highest use of compost or manure as fertiliser for garden plants (equal 83% with ACT). Highest use of letter writing to register an environmental concern (42%).

Victoria: Highest proportion of households with a dual flush toilet (64%), and for rainwater tanks not being allowed in the shire/district (15%).

Queensland: Highest for believing that the state of the environment had improved in the last 10 years (26%), and for use of flysprays or baits in dwellings (84%).

South Australia: Highest for:
  • membership of groups concerned with the marine environment (19%)
  • use of rainwater tanks (54%) and bottled water (20%) as water sources
  • people believing the cost of water was too high (45%).
Least satisfied with drinking water quality (45%), and highest for not drinking mains water (10%).

Western Australia: Highest for:
  • believing that the state of the environment had declined over the last 10 years (51%)
  • not enough information being available on the environment (44%)
  • not interested in using environmentally friendly products (16%)
  • use of pesticides on fruit and vegetables grown by the household (42%)
  • people reporting problems with water taste (68%)
  • using reduced-flow shower heads (38%), timers on taps (29%), fixed sprinkler systems (59%), and for using native trees/shrubs and/or mulch to conserve water (40% and 82%, respectively).

Tasmania: Freshwater pollution was the greatest environmental concern (31%). Highest membership in Landcare or catchment management groups (42%). Greatest use of blood and bone (63%) and gypsum/lime (17%) to grow fruit and vegetables. Least likely to alter the amount of water they used because of its cost.

Northern Territory: The environmental concern most nominated was ocean/sea pollution (26%). NT people were the most likely to think that the quality of the environment had stayed much the same over the last 10 years (30%), and that environmentally friendly products were too expensive (46%). NT used the most nitrogen fertiliser (27%) and superphosphate (18%) to grow fruit and vegetables. Most satisfied with water drinking quality (equal 84% with ACT), but the highest for problems of dirt and colour in drinking water (41% and 36% respectively).
Also highest for:
  • Households with swimming pools (19%)
  • proportion of households who water gardens early morning/late evening to conserve water (72%)
  • use of drip irrigation systems (33%)
  • proportion of visits to World Heritage Areas, National and State parks (63%)
  • use of a signed petition and demonstrations to register an environmental concern (68% and 20%, respectively).

Australian Capital Territory: Rated highest for:
  • those concerned about environmental problems in 1998 (76%)
  • obtaining information on the environment from TV or radio (82%), newspapers (68%), government or local council (31%) and computer facilities such as Internet (6%)
  • most likely to report that their behaviour and actions had been influenced by environmental information (71%)
  • donating time or money to protect the environment (24%)
  • use of all environmentally friendly products surveyed except organically grown fruit and vegetables
  • chlorine as a problem in drinking water (37%)
  • awareness of the water rating system for efficiency of appliances (79%).