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Cost of living tops list of New Zealanders' key issues

Auckland's deadly floods and Cyclone Gabrielle has prompted more New Zealanders to rate climate change as their top issue.

However, global warming trails well behind the cost of living, as well as housing and crime, as most important to Kiwis ahead of the October election.

A new Ipsos NZ poll shows climate change has risen to the fourth-biggest issue, up six percentage points to 27 per cent, Kiwis say they are facing - the highest rating for the issue.

In the past month, New Zealand has been ravaged by record rainfall in Auckland, bringing flooding that killed four, and its worst storm in generation, which killed 11 and rendered whole communities uninhabitable.

By comparison, in Ipsos' Australian polling, climate change does not make the top 10.

Despite Gabrielle's horrors, the top issue facing New Zealanders remains inflation or the cost of living, rated by 65 per cent as a key issue, up seven per cent since the last poll in September.

It is the highest rating of any issue since the survey began.

"Concerns about inflation and the cost of living have been with us for 12 months now ... this is the number one issue facing most countries around the world," Ipsos NZ managing director Carin Hercock said.

In 2021, New Zealand's top issue was housing, followed by healthcare.

The country faces an overall housing shortage, which means Kiwis pay huge shares of their income in rent or mortgage repayments, while others live in poor or unsuitable homes.

The post-COVID inflation shock endured by the developed world surged cost of living to the top of Ipsos' issue-based rankings in early 2022, where it has stayed.

New Zealand's headline inflation is at 7.2 per cent, pushing the Reserve Bank to raise the official cash rate at its last 10 meetings, to sit at 4.75 per cent.

"New Zealand seems to have been thrown one challenge after another over the last few years, but we've never seen an issue as prominent as the cost of living and inflation is now," Ipsos NZ research director Amanda Dudding said.

In the latest rankings, housing remains equal second with 33 per cent, along with crime, with healthcare joining climate change in equal fourth.

The rankings are a strong guide for New Zealand's political parties as they gear up for the October 14 election.

Chris Hipkins, who replaced Jacinda Ardern as prime minister last month, has pledged to run a government focused on "bread and butter" issues, with cost of living his key concern.

New Zealanders trust his Labour government to deal with cost of living better than Ms Ardern's government.

Ipsos also asks Kiwis who they believe is most capable of dealing with each issue, finding opposition party National is more trusted than Labour on the cost of living.

In the September 2022 poll, Labour faced a 14-point shortfall to opposition party National to deal with the issue (26 per cent to 40 per cent), but in this month's poll, the gap is just three points (31 per cent to 34 per cent).

National is better-rated to deal with crime, while Labour is on top with healthcare, and the Greens most trusted on climate change.


1. Cost of living - 65 per cent

=2. Housing, Crime - 33 per cent

=4. Climate change, Healthcare - 27 per cent