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NZ research

New Zealand literature about the benefits of connecting with nature

Mahi a Atua:  A pathway forward for Māori mental health?

Rangihuna, D., Kopua, M., & Tipene-Leach, D. (2018, March 9). New Zealand Medical Journal, 131(1471).
The Mahi a Atua narratives-based programme established in the primary mental healthcare services of the Tairāwhiti/Gisborne area has created a new approach to psychiatric assessment, diagnosis and therapy that is appropriate, but not confined, to the Māori community. This pilot project will be of interest nationwide and will have implications for those dealing with mental health problems and other forms of social distress. Mahi a Atua is an engagement, an assessment and an intervention based on pūrākau (Maori creation and custom narratives).

Forest scholars empowering communities: A case study from the East Coast of New Zealand

Edwards, P., et al. (2018, June). Forest Policy and Economics, 91, 46-53.
Forests and forestry in many forms are instrumental in contributing positively to environmental, social and economic outcomes in New Zealand. The authors apply adaptive governance and Kaupapa Māori principles to encourage collaboration and innovative thinking and decision-making.

Empowering indigenous voices in disaster response: Applying the Mauri Model to New Zealand's worst environmental maritime disaster

Morgan, T.K.K.B., &., Fa'aui, T.N. (2018, August). European Journal of Operational Research, 268(2), 984-995.
This paper shares how the Mauri Model Decision Making Framework, in conjunction with an indigenous based methodology, empowered Te Arawa ki Tai in the recovery process and facilitated an enhanced understanding.

Exposure to urban nature and tree planting are related to pro-environmental behavior via connection to nature, the use of nature for psychological restoration, and environmental attitudes

Whitburn, J., Linklater, W. L., &., Milfont, T. L. (2018, January 3). Environment and Behavior, first published online.
Connection to nature was more strongly associated with engagement in pro-environmental behaviour than the use of nature for psychological restoration and environmental attitudes.

Exploring critical alternatives for youth development through lifestyle sport: Surfing and community development in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Wheaton, B., Roy, G., & Olive, R. (2017). Sustainability, 9(12), 2298.
Despite the range of challenges presented by surfing as a tool for positive development, surfing presents a potentially “critical alternative” which if sport-for-development programs are to be a form of social change, we should remain open to exploring.

Exploring wellness of wildlife carers in New Zealand: A descriptive study

Yeung, P., White, B., & Chilvers, L. (2017, November).  Anthrozoös, 30(4), 549-563.
These results may provide clues to help identify wildlife carers’ strengths for compassion satisfaction and vulnerabilities to compassion fatigue, and to help develop strategies to improve their professional quality of life.

Developing resilience, independence and well-being in older adults through interactive outdoor spaces

Chershaw, C. et al. (2017, July). Passive Low Energy Architecture Conference, At Edinburgh, Scotland Conference paper.

Studies highlighted the significance of outdoor spaces for the promotion of physical activity in older adults through methods such as recreation in parks, group fitness, interactive exercise equipment or elderly playgrounds. In particular, there was substantial support for developing interactive outdoor spaces for managing the ageing populations. 

Green space and pregnancy outcomes: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Nichani, V., et al. (2017). Health & Place, 46, 21-28.

The provision of green space might prove to be beneficial in terms of increasing gestational age for pregnant women who have not acquired secondary school education qualifications.

Home gardening and the health and wellbeing of adolescents

Van Lier, L. E., Utter, J., & Denny, S., et al. (2017). Health Promotion Practice, 18(1), 34-43.

Gardening was positively associated with healthy dietary habits among NZ students, such as greater fruit and vegetable consumption. Gardening was also positively associated with physical activity and improved mental health and wellbeing. 

New Zealand occupational therapists' use of adventure therapy in mental health practice

Jeffery, H., & Wilson, L. (2017, April). New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(1).

With additional training occupational therapists are well equipped to integrate adventure therapy into mental health practice.

Measuring blue space visibility and ‘blue recreation’ in the everyday lives of children in a capital city 

Pearson, A. L., Bottomley, R., & Chambers, T., et al. (2017). International Journal of Environmental Research and public Health, 14(6), 563.

The study aims to quantify and understand trends in visual exposure to blue space and participation in blue recreation among children in Wellington.

Assessing the relationship between greenspace and academic achievement in urban New Zealand primary schools

Beere,P., & Kingham, S. (2017). New Zealand Geographer, 22 May 2017.

The authors conclude greenspace can have a significant positive effect on improved concentration duration, behaviour in the classroom, and educational and social development for school-aged children.

Doses of nearby nature simultaneously associated with multiple health benefits

Cox, D. T. C, Shanahan, D. F., & Hudson, H. L., et al. (2017, February 9). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(2), 172.

Nearby nature offers huge potential as an easily accessible and cost-effective approach to illness prevention.

Increasing resilience in adolescents: The importance of social connectedness in adventure education programmes 

Scarf, D., Hayhurst J. G., & Riordan, B. C., et al. (2016, September 27). Australasian Psychiatry, first published online.

The findings demonstrate the positive impact Adventure Education Programmes have on adolescents’ resilience and a mechanism through which this occurs.

The impact of children's exposure to greenspace on physical activity, cognitive development, emotional wellbeing, and ability to appraise risk

Ward, J. S., Duncan, J. S., & Jarden, A., et al. (2016, July). Health & Place, 40, 44-50.

Findings support the theory that for children, greenspaces are an important environmental influence on physical activity and emotional wellbeing.

Quality of life survey 2016: Built and natural environment 

Colmar Brunton. (2016). Quality of Life survey 2016: Topline report (41-53). A report prepared on behalf of Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, Wellington City Council, Christchurch City Council, and Dunedin City Council.

The most common reasons across seven cities for having a sense of pride was that their city or local area provides a good lifestyle, there are plenty of parks/green open spaces and the beautiful natural environment, or good climate.

The development of a model of community garden benefits to wellbeing 

Egli, V., Oliver, M., &., Tautolo, E. (2016, June). Preventive Medicine Reports, 3, 348-352.

The research develops a model that communicates the many benefits of community garden participation as described in the academic literature, to a diverse audience of laypersons.

Providing for risky play in the outdoor environment

Jensen, A. (2016, May 7). Nurture in Nature, Auckland, New Zealand.

The seminar outlines the importance of risky play in the outdoor environment for children’s developmental growth. 

Crime, greenspace and life satisfaction: An evaluation of the New Zealand experience

Fleming, C. M., Manning, M., & Ambrey, C. L. (2016, May). Landscape and Urban Planning, 149, 1-10.

The authors conclude given the considerable level of public investment in providing and maintaining greenspace, there is a clear need to address fear of crime in the neighbourhood in order to ensure that the full benefits of policies directed at promoting the use of neighbourhood greenspace for health and well-being can be realised.

Pause, breathe, smile: A mixed-methods study of student wellbeing following participation in an eight-week, locally developed mindfulness program in three New Zealand schools

Bernay, R., Graham, E., Devcich, D, A., Rix, G., & Rubie-Davies, C. M (2016, March). Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 90-106.

Results suggest the importance of offering mindfulness-based programs for potential improvements in students’ wellbeing.

Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city 

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A.L., Kingham, S., & Reitsma, F. (2016, March 11). Health Place, 39,70-78. Epub ahead of print.

Higher levels of blue space visibility are associated with lower psychological distress. Importantly, blue space visibility is not significantly associated with tooth loss.

The nature of wellbeing: How nature’s ecosystems services contribute to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders

Roberts, L., et al. (2015). Wellington: Department of Conservation.

The evidence assembled in this report demonstrates that the ecosystem services that are delivered by indigenous biodiversity and natural landscapes contribute in a very wide variety of ways to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders. 

Eco-therapy good for Kiwis 

(2015, November). Mental Health Foundation NZ.

Spending time in nature improves wellbeing. It’s not just something that’s nice to do, it’s good for your mental and physical health. That’s why the Mental Health Foundation is delighted to be partnering with the Department of Conservation to promote good mental health and protect New Zealand’s precious environment. 

Report No.3 Take Charge: Exercise and wellbeing in New Zealand

Mackay, L.M., Prendergast, K., Schofield, G.M., & Jarden, A. (2015, November). Auckland: AUT Human Potential Centre and Sovereign.

The survey finds those exercising in natural settings had a greater prevalence of being awesome, happiness, and high energy, than those who did not exercise outdoors in natural settings. Outdoor settings were associated with a slightly lower prevalence of depressed mood than indoor settings.

Survey of New Zealanders 

(2016, June). Department of Conservation.

Spending time in nature or enjoying scenery and spending time with family and friends are the most popular reasons for using a Department of Conservation area. There are also those claiming to want to get away from it all, have a physical challenge or to improve health. 

The eco-friendly therapist: An interpretative literature review of obstacles and solutions to practicing ecotherapy 

Selina, C. (2014). A dissertation submitted to Auckland University of Technology.

Ecotherapy uses the restorative qualities that nature offers by stepping outside the therapy room, or through bringing elements of nature indoors. This dissertation provides a history and overview of ecotherapy practice, along with a summary of ecotherapy modalities. 

An ecological study investigating the association between access to urban green space and mental health

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A.L. and Kingham, S. (2013, November). Public Health, 127, 1005-1011.

The study finds that decreased distance to useable green space and increased proportion of green space within the larger neighbourhood are associated with decreased anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts in an urban environment.

Health and wellbeing benefits of conservation in New Zealand

Blaschke, P. (2013). Wellington: Department of Conservation.

The report identifies sources of data and expertise that are required to further analyse the relationships between conservation investment and human health, discusses the value of conservation investment as measured by health outcomes, and describes measures that would improve the alignment between conservation management and potential health and wellbeing benefits in New Zealand.

Sovereign Wellbeing Index: New Zealand’s first measure of wellbeing 

(2013). Auckland: AUT Human Potential Centre and Sovereign.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing were all strongly associated with higher wellbeing (connect, give, take notice, keep learning, be active). Flourishing scores increase linearly with taking notice. People who take notice more are flourishing more. Older adults take more notice of their surroundings and more Maori/Pacific people take notice compared to other ethnic groups.

The relationship between sustainable environmental practices and positive mental health

(2011). Auckland: Mental Health Foundation.

The natural environment is fundamentally important to both physical and psychological wellbeing, so actions that promote and protect the natural environment help to increase the ability to flourish in life. In turn, people and communities that are flourishing, eg, have high levels of wellbeing, tend to be environmentally responsible in their behaviour and can, therefore, contribute to environmental sustainability.

Effective approaches to connect children with nature: Principles for effectively engaging children and young people with nature 

Wilson, C. (2011). Wellington: Department of Conservation.

Frequent, positive early childhood experiences with nature have a major impact on the healthy growth of a child’s mind, body and spirit. The Department of Conservation’s National Education Strategy emphasises the importance of children and young people connecting with nature, and developing conservation knowledge, values and skills to enable them to get involved and make a difference.

Exploring nature with children 

(2011). Hamilton: Department of Conservation.

Parents, grandparents and/or guardians have a critical role in fostering that natural ‘sense of wonder’ that kids have. This booklet is designed to give families practical ideas to share and enjoy the natural world – whether it be in your own backyard or out and about in local parks, reserves and beyond.  

Time Use Survey: 2009/10 

(2011). Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

The average time average time per day spent on all primary exercise or sporting activities is 19 minutes.

Healthy open spaces: A summary of the impact of open spaces on health and wellbeing

Regional Public Health (2010, March): Lower Hutt: Regional Public Health.

This paper has illustrated that the quality and type of open space provided within communities can have a significant and sustained impact on community health and wellbeing.


Healthy Places, Healthy Lives: Urban environments and wellbeing

Public Health Advisory Committee. (2010). Wellington: Ministry of Health.

The authors note that there is some evidence that increases in stress and anxiety can be due to traffic congestion and related travel delays are linked to high blood pressure, more sick days off work, more days in hospital and poorer job performance. In contrast, access to high-quality green space is linked with quicker recovery from stress and lower rates of depression.

Linking farmer wellbeing and environmentally sustainable land use: A comparison between converting organic and conventional dairy farmer

Mortlock, B., & Hunt, L.M. (2008). Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability.

The report provides a description of the relationship between wellbeing achieved by farming and the care of the environment as revealed in interviews with dairy farmers participating in the ARGOS programme. Its purpose was to indicate how environmental care might be part of farmers' everyday life and become part of their sense of wellbeing and way of living a meaningful life.


Me whakawhanaunga 

Maramataka: Mutuwhenua

Monday 8 October

The moon phase today is called Mutuwhenua – it’s the last day of the lunar cycle. We suggest focusing on connecting with your whānau, friends and community in nature.

Focus on connecting with nature to uplift your wairua/spirit and those around you.


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Keep learning

Me ako tonu

Maramataka: Whiro

Tuesday 9 October

The moon phase today is called Whiro, the new moon, the beginning of the new moon cycle. A day where activity was minimal, a day for wananga/learning. This makes Tuesday a great day to Keep Learning.


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Take notice

 Me aro tonu

Maramataka: Tirea

Wednesday 10 October



The new moon is beginning to expand ever so slightly and can just be seen. See nature through a different lens and take some time to Take Notice and be inspired by what’s happening around you.


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Be active

Me kori tonu

Maramataka: Ohoata

Thursday 11 October

Today is a very good day for fishing, eeling and crayfishing, and a good day for planting which means it’s a great day to Be Active! Getting outside and exercising is good for your overall health and wellbeing and strengthens your connection with nature.

Remember to encourage people to be as physically active as their fitness and mobility allow. You don’t have to run a marathon to be active!


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Maramataka: Ouenuku

Friday 12 October

This is the fourth night of the lunar month. Today is a good day to rekindle your connections with nature, re-tell stories with whānau and give back.

Nature provides for us – it gives us everything we need to not only survive but thrive. We, in turn, have a kaitiaki/guardianship role to give back to nature for future generations.

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