Kiwi’s connection to nature is truly a special thing.
In a nutshell
- As the world around us changes, Kiwi's have begun to view their connection to nature in a more holistic way. Where connecting with nature used to be primarily a physical challenge, today it serves emotional, spiritual and social functions more evenly.
- Kiwi's spiritual connection to nature gives us a deep sense of ownership and care for the environment.
- Nature facilitates social connection, enabling Kiwis to spend valuable time with friends and family.
- Kiwis fear a loss of connection with nature. Urban living, a shortage of time and too much screen time make Kiwis fear that future generations will not be as connected to nature.
- Brands can play in this space by engaging with Kiwis in a much more nuanced and holistic sense of wellbeing through connection with nature.
It remains resilient despite the influence of a changing world and the impact on our priorities and potential alternative experiences.
But the world and our lives are changing and the result has been a more overtly holistic aspect to Kiwi’s connection with nature. The desire to be close to nature drives cultural currents such as mindfulness, wellbeing and unplugging, which means that brands that understand this deep-seated Kiwi code have the opportunity to reach New Zealanders more deeply and profoundly than ever before.
Where connecting with nature used to be primarily a physical challenge, today it serves emotional, spiritual and social functions more evenly. And these dimensions create different tensions that require different solutions. The core tension is that Kiwis fear a loss of connection with the environment which can play out in many ways – care for the environment, a sense of ownership, our legacy through our children, and a conduit for human connection and reconnection.
Though we feel this connection intuitively, we see it confirmed in what people say. DOC’s data shows that 85% of Kiwis say that connecting with nature improves their lives, and Statistics New Zealand’s general social survey (GSS) shows that people give a score of 9.1 out of 10 for the importance of ‘natural scenery and environment’ in their lives (this shares top spot with ‘freedom, rights and peace’ – a lofty partner with whom to share the podium).
1. Spiritual connection leads to a sense of ownership
Kiwis may now feel that nature is there more to be enjoyed than physically conquered, but the spiritual connection still runs deep which gives us a sense of ownership. A recent news story about a family unable to book one of the Great Walks has raised debate about whether New Zealanders should get first rights to booking oversubscribed walks. Yes, we get that they are one of the draw cards for visitors and, yes, we get that tourism is a source of income for the country and a significant contributor to employment – but how much are we willing to share if it limits our own access?
Care for the environment is linked to this idea – do Kiwis take better care than visitors? Freedom camping is seen as a fundamental right for Kiwis, but visitors weren’t brought up the same way, they didn’t acquire the unwritten behavioural codes as children and that creates tensions.
New Zealanders believe that the natural environment is deteriorating and while we may not have the chance to enjoy our country’s natural beauty as much as we’d like, Kiwis are anxious to see that it is protected for future generations. The recent ‘Keep New Zealand Beautiful’ campaign successfully talks to this, putting the problem to New Zealanders to solve or at least giving them a part to play. However, people also believe that business has a big role to play in ensuring our great outdoors survives for generations to come, giving companies a clear mandate to get involved to connect with nature and thereby with Kiwis.
2. Connecting to nature is also about social connection
In DOC’s survey one of the main reasons (70% of people) for using recreational areas was spending time with family and friends. The image of the solitary southern man conquering Aoraki/Mount Cook has been replaced in people’s minds with friends getting off the grid and enjoying each other’s company, of parents sharing knowledge and behavioural codes with their children, of intimate unrushed conversations, even of struggles through adversity bonding people in shared experiences.
The Air New Zealand and DOC video ‘Golly what a day’ is a prime example. And of course the associated activity supporting the video shows not just individual children enjoying the great outdoors but also how they interact and share their experiences. It’s what every Kiwi parent dreams of for their kids.
Southern Cross Health Society is another example to hit this note with their ‘Take Back Life’ idea. The story champions the importance of stepping out of our busy lives to connect and engage with nature and with the important people in our lives. By aligning the two they capture the social and emotional benefits of this embedded Kiwi code.