Peterson, E. (2018, May). Prioritising community behaviours to improve the quality of urban rivers within Christchurch, New Zealand. Massey University., & Department of Conservation.

Conducted for the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Massey University as part of a summer student scholarship, the purpose of this research report was to explore the hypothesis by McKenzie-Mohr (2011) that individual behavioural changes can have a positive environmental impact. Focusing on the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River and Ōtautahi Christchurch communities, the study used the community-based social marketing behaviour change framework described in McKenzie-Mohr (2011) to determine which pro-environmental behaviours would be most environmentally beneficial and easily adoptable by Ōtautahi communities.

In total, 10 pro-environmental behaviours were assessed for their potential to positively contribute to freshwater conservation, the likelihood of their adoption by Christchurch communities, and existing participation levels within Christchurch communities. To achieve this, a combination of community and ‘expert’ surveys were conducted to calculate the TWI (Total Weighted Impact) of each behaviour using expert estimates of effectiveness, current adoption levels (penetration), and the likelihood of future adoption.

Overall, behaviours such as reporting pollution and rubbish in the Heathcote River, not feeding ducks along the river, and picking up rubbish along the river had the highest TWI scores. These behaviours were ranked as important by experts and as having a high likelihood of adoption while simultaneously having relatively low penetration. Behaviours such as volunteering in river clean ups or planting projects recieved average TWI scores. This was because although they were ranked as important by experts, these activities required more community involvement and therefore had lower adoption scores. Behaviours such as safely disposing of paint, chemicals, and waste products away from waterways had the lowest TWI scores because they already had high penetration rates. To conclude, the report emphasised how a better understanding of the main barriers and benefits to pro-environmental behaviours could aid future education and behaviour change campaigns.


McKenzie-Mohr (2011) paper:

  • McKenzie-Mohr, D. (2011). Fostering Sustainable Behaviour: An introduction to Community Based Social Marketing. BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Community Environmental Behaviour - 2018

Community Environmental Behaviour - Peterson., 2018