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Survey highlights motivations for time in nature

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Mental and physical health and a desire to connect with history and nature are among the motivations for time in the outdoors, according to New Zealanders who responded to a Department of Conservation survey.

The New Zealanders in the Outdoors survey, undertaken before the impacts of COVID-19, between September 2018 and February 2020, gleaned comments and responses from about 3,800 people.

“A core focus of DOC’s work is to facilitate and encourage people’s access to and connection with New Zealand’s great outdoors – our natural and cultural heritage,” says DOC spokesperson Tim Bamford.

“The purpose of this research was to better understand New Zealanders’ experiences in the outdoors and nature.”

The survey highlights how being in nature contributes to the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

“In their comments, some of our survey respondents referred specifically to how being outdoors improved their wellbeing, using terms like ‘mindfulness’, ‘calmer’, ‘restful’ and ‘invigorated,” Tim says.

The survey asked respondents to describe the key benefits of spending time outdoors: 41% referenced their mental health as a motivation, 35% referenced physical health, and 34% cited a desire for connection with nature. Getting away from everyday routine and reflecting was also considered important.

The research has helped identify six key customers segments that show differences in how New Zealanders engage with the outdoors including who is doing what. Four were identified as being more active: Mindful Actives (21%), Social Actives (21%), Enthusiastic Actives (14%) and Stimulation Actives (11%). Two were identified as less active segments: Home-Close Actives (13%) required outdoor places that were easier to access – especially for those with mobility issues – and Other Things Actives (20%) had limited engagement with the outdoors preferring to do other things.

The survey and analysis also revealed preferred outdoors experiences, with short walks (less than three hours) the leader, enjoyed by 91% of respondents. Picnics and barbecues were enjoyed by 82% of respondents, followed by sightseeing (81%). Day walks/hikes (52%) came joint fifth alongside swimming (52%).

“Significantly, visiting cultural or historic heritage sites was the fourth most popular outdoor experience, with 66 per cent of New Zealanders showing a desire to connect with their history,” says Tim Bamford.

“Since the impacts of COVID-19 we’ve seen a desire from New Zealanders to get out into nature. The survey helps build DOC’s understanding of how and why people use the great outdoors so we can best cater to their needs and help build mutually beneficial experiences where people take time in nature for their wellbeing, and give back to nature for its wellbeing.”

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