Issues important to the community
A 2016 survey of 1,000 residents, commissioned by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board in collaboration with the South Australian Murray–Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, sought to provide an understanding of SA’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in relation to the environment.
Residents were asked what they consider to be the 2 most important issues at state level needing attention from the SA Government.
South Australian residents ranked the environment 11th, with only 4% naming this as one of their two most important issues.
The most important environmental issues identified were water security, energy security and water quality.
Other environmental issues nominated were renewable energy, biodiversity conservation, nuclear waste, air quality and climate change.
In August 2017, the EPA surveyed Year 7–10 school students who were members of the Youth Environment Council of SA about what they considered to be the most important environmental issues.
Their responses included fracking, climate change, offshore drilling, nuclear waste and feral animals. Students were also concerned about reduced flows from the River Murray, inadequate public transport and increased waste.
In a Brand SA survey of community perceptions in 2014, South Australians ranked an ‘unspoilt environment’ as high as economic security.
In preparing this SOER, the EPA invited stakeholders to provide their views about the risks of most concern for SA. The top issues identified include responding to climate change, protecting and restoring habitat, and strengthening accountability. An overarching issue was the need for improved environmental information, education and awareness.
We know perceptions are influenced by a number of factors and can change quickly. This is important to keep in mind when interpreting survey results on a topic as broad as the environment.
This is best illustrated by the results of the survey on environmental views and behaviour conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2007–08 and again in 2011–12.
While there was no discernible change in environmental conditions between the 2 surveys other than the end of the Millennium Drought, the percentage of people who thought the environment was in good condition in 2011–12 was more than double that of 2007–08. Over the 4 years, Australians also became 20% less concerned and more optimistic about the environment.
However, more than 60% of Australians were still concerned about environmental issues in the second survey. This is consistent with the results of the survey of young people, in which 7 out of 10 were concerned about environmental issues in SA.