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National environmental indicator

See chapter 1, ‘Environmental reporting’ for more information on the core national environmental indicators and how they are used.

Household consumption expenditure

Household consumption expenditure is a proxy measure of the pressure that households place on the environment through their consumption. It reports how much money households spend on a variety of goods and services. These goods and services can be grouped into categories as shown in Table 3.2.

Table 3.2: Description of consumption categories

Category Description of what category includes

Food and beverages

Retail food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks

Clothing and footwear

Clothing, footwear, and footwear repairs


Rental payments (including rent, rental expenses, wages in kind, maintenance materials, and maintenance services), and imputed rent (where a cash value is ascribed to the services gained from housing, such as shelter, that are not usually exchanged for money)

Household goods and services

Fuel and energy for the home (for example, electricity), furniture, and major appliances (for example, purchases and repairs), textiles (for example, curtains), and tableware (for example, crockery)


Vehicle operation (for example, petrol, vehicle parts, and repairs), purchased transport (for example, taxi, bus, rail, and aeroplane fares), and vehicles purchased

Recreation and education2

A complete data set for this category is not available

Hotels and restaurants

Takeaways and food and beverages purchased in restaurants, and accommodation

Other goods and services

Personal goods and services, post and telephone, and services not classified elsewhere

Health and medical goods and services2

A complete data set for this category is not available


(1) Housing excludes mortgage payments and house purchases. Mortgage payments are not included in any of these categories.

(2) Complete data sets for the categories recreation and education, and health and medical goods and services are not available, so these categories have only a basic analysis in this chapter: nominal data has been used to determine the combined total of these two categories in current price terms, and these figures are included in Table 3.3.

Data source: Adapted from Statistics New Zealand, pers comm.

There is one national environmental indicator for reporting on household consumption. It provides information on household consumption expenditure.

To report on the indicator, data on expenditure is presented against the following seven consumption categories from Table 3.2:

  • food and beverages

  • clothing and footwear

  • housing

  • household goods and services

  • transport

  • hotels and restaurants

  • other goods and services.

Real and nominal data

Both real and nominal data have been used in this chapter.

Real data has been adjusted to remove the impact of price change (that is, inflation). A time series expressed in real terms relates to the underlying volumes of goods and services being bought and sold over time. The real household consumption expenditure figures in this chapter are based on a constant price (expressed in 1995/1996 prices), chain-linked series.

Nominal data is based on current prices and not adjusted for inflation.

Limitations of the indicator

The amount of money spent on the purchase of household goods and services is not necessarily a direct measure of the environmental impacts of these goods and services. This is because the links between consumption, economic growth, and environmental impact are not straightforward (see, for example, Haas et al, 2005; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1999; and Yandle et al, 2004). For example, although economic activity influences our use of natural resources, economic growth can also provide the means to address environmental concerns (Statistics New Zealand, 2002). Another example is where producers and consumers can reduce the environmental impact of household consumption by making or purchasing more resource-efficient products.