More than 90 percent of New Zealanders think environmental education should be taught in all schools, according to the results of a poll released Monday.
The survey by polling firm Colmar Brunton found 74 percent of respondents strongly agreed and 20 percent slightly agreed that all schools -- from early childhood to tertiary level -- should teach the importance of caring for the natural environment and living in a way that preserves it for the future.
The results of the poll, commissioned by conservation group WWF- New Zealand ahead of the general election in November, were released as New Zealand maritime and environment authorities are struggling to avert a major environmental disaster caused by a cargo ship grounded on a reef off the east of the North Island.
"New Zealanders care about protecting our natural heritage and feel very strongly that these values are passed on to the next generation," said WWF-New Zealand education program manager Wendy Barry.
"People understand that a healthy New Zealand society depends on a healthy environment -- this is a message we want the government to hear and to act upon."
Barry said the poll results sent a clear message to that the government that they should not ignore.
"Our political leaders have a clear mandate from the New Zealand public to adopt policies that support learning about sustainability in our schools, early childhood centers and tertiary institutions."
The poll found that 1 percent of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed that environment education should be taught in schools, while 2 percent slightly disagreed and another 2 percent strongly disagreed, and 1 percent said they did not know.
Environmental issues are set to be a major feature of the election campaign with the government wanting to allow more exploitation of New Zealand's natural resources both on and off shore.