Environmental attitudes and environmental knowledge: air pollution in Christchurch

J. E. Hay, R. J. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On the basis of the results of a questionnaire survey of 150 Christchurch households it was apparent that, while the majority of the sample believed that Christchurch has an air pollution problem, the majority considered it affects areas other than where their residence is located, and few believed that air pollution reduced the attractiveness of Christchurch and their street as places to live. The superficial level of knowledge of the air pollution phenomenon is not in keeping with the accepted seriousness of the problem, but conforms with the widespread belief that air pollution has little personal effect on an individual and does not incur any financial costs. As a consequence of these latter viewpoints, the respondents exhibited a general passiveness in their response to serious air pollution situations, though they were particularly willing to forfeit the lighting of fires for the duration of such a period. As long term responses to air pollution, 79% of the sample would agree to the banning of open coal fires. This willingness to forgo this means of heating was already apparent in the voluntary decrease in the popularity of the domestic open fire and an increase in the use of electricity. This study has provided information which is of extreme relevance to any programme to alleviate the air pollution problem of Christchurch. The claim of the N.Z. Board of Health Report (1970) that programmes to discourage the use of open fires have had little effect needs some qualification since the use of open fires as the principal means of domestic heating has declined from 83% in 1961 to 21% in 1972, though admittedly some 71% of households still use an open fire as a supplementary source of heat. If the population of Christchurch was more prepared to acknowledge the existence of the financial effects of air pollution (a possible theme for future education programmes) then perhaps the decline in the use of the open coal fire could be accelerated, since only a small proportion of the sample gave economic factors as reasons for changing their principal form of heating in the last 10 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1972


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