Improving Air Quality

Poor air quality is a serious problem in New Zealand. Air pollution caused by human behaviour is responsible for 1175 premature deaths each year and many hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiac illnesses. Looking at the causes; 56 per cent of is due to domestic fires, 22 per cent due to motor vehicles, 12 per cent due to open burning and 10 per cent due to industry.


Currently the social cost of our high level of air pollution is $4.28 billion per annum. Pollution from domestic fires alone costs New Zealand $2.39 billion.


Reducing air pollution from domestic wood burners has been the objective of our behaviour change work in Canterbury.


Extensive research over a number of winter periods was undertaken to establish what people knew and believed about air pollution, the role of wood-burners in causing pollution and what tools they needed to help them make a change. Strands included: a nation-wide quantitative study, a series of focus-groups in key locations and observational research in Canterbury complimented by pre- and post-campaign quant research.


The research analysis gave us clear insight into what people believed, the barriers to change and the differences across the country depending on whether there had been any previous campaigns around wood-burners are air pollution. It formed the basis of a multi-strand community behaviour change strategy


The 2015 research gave us deep insight on what people believed, who their trusted sources of information were and how they wanted to receive information and instructions.


To bring this insight to life a new brand identity and suite of interventions was developed for 2016. However the initial identity, while based on our insight, were rejected in the our public testing. The interventions were sound but the brand identity did not resonate and while the campaign would have raised awareness there would have been little engagement and limited behaviour change. Revised materials were developed which:


  • Put individuals and the benefits they would receive from changing their fire technique at the core of the campaign.
  • Had a helpful and friendly tone.
  • Featured cuddly and friendly pets – these were seen as core to the family, as was the fire.

The quantitative and qualitative analysis of the 2016 campaign showed excellent cut-through and behaviour change. It showed that:


  • People are changing their technique when it comes to how they run their wood-burners.
  • People do check their chimney (50% of respondents) and a significant number (24%) try to stop them from smoking.
  • A ‘no visible smoke’ rule isn’t necessary – helping people and providing tangible tools such as kindling and clear instructions are key to changing behaviour.
  • The helpful tone of the campaign, the emphasis on personal benefits and the simplified instructions helped achieve the change in behaviour needed.