Climate change in the New Zealand media – Preview

August 27, 2021

This report is based on McNamara Research’s analysis of all high-impact climate journalism in New Zealand’s written media over the six months from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021. It is the first in a series of reports on this important topic. The next report (available mid-November) will include Q3 2021 data and findings, with the subsequent quarterly update due early 2022. 

In this report we describe:

  • key findings
  • media share and focus  
  • breakdowns by sector, and
  • looking ahead – key trends we’ve identified.

 We also explain our methodology and sentiment scores.

Key findings

In the first half of this year media interest in climate change focused on new initiatives and business methods responding to climate change issues. The big stories during this time were the Climate Change Commission’s advice to Government, and responses to this.  Media were most interested in regulation of emissions, especially relating to agriculture and vehicles, and in the response of energy providers.

All major titles had dedicated writers working on the issues from one or several points of view covering science, business, environment, or economy and social outcomes. Stuff, RNZ and The New Zealand Herald were especially prolific. Business titles focused on innovation and investment in technology demanded by climate change in news and analysis. Online-only titles focused on long form analysis and future perspectives.  

Share of Voice

The Government had a majority of the share of voice. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and fellow Labour Ministers Megan Woods and Michael Wood were quoted most often on the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations for energy, transport and agriculture. Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw was also quoted on the Climate Change Commission’s report and Budget 2021, which was framed as a positive first step, as well as advocating for immediate change in policy. Opposition parties National and ACT were quoted most often opposing the proposed rebate for electric vehicles and charge for fuel-burning vehicles. ACT also resisted the Commission’s report entirely, instead advocating the Emissions Trading Scheme. 

Industries most affected by the Commission’s report, including agriculture, transport and energy, engaged most actively with media. Over the six months 26% percent of stories originated with these industries in a mix of news and opinion. Big swathes of industry conveyed a more short-term cost-benefit approach in sometimes noisy campaigns. In contrast, individual companies were unusually low profile. 

Resistance to the Climate Change Commission’s proposed timeline and targets was most notably from the agricultural sector. However, criticism – picked up by the media – came from activists and industry advocate groups on both sides of the political spectrum.  

Buy full reportRead full reportBack to overviewPrint pageLog outLog in