Entrants picked one or more Sustainable Development Goals to write about. 

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of a new global agenda on sustainable development. 

New Zealand agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. All over the world actions are being taken to make our planet more sustainable.

This is the beginning of the Sustainable Development Goal conversation in Aotearoa.

Click on an SDG to find out more.


SDG #1 No Poverty

In New Zealand, there are around 682,500 people, including around 220,000 children, in poverty in this country: that’s one in seven households. Some groups are more likely than others to be in poverty: Beneficiaries, children, Māori and Pacific peoples, and sole parents are more likely to experience poverty than other groups. This means one in seven households in New Zealand are experiencing hunger and food insecurity, poor health outcomes, reduced life expectancy, debt, and unaffordable or bad housing.

Progress has also been limited in other regions, such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which together cover 80 percent of those living in extreme poverty. New threats brought on by climate change, conflict and food insecurity, mean even more work is needed to bring people out of poverty. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men due to unequal access to paid work, education and property.

Poverty exists in a number of forms, and is caused by a number of different things. Getting rid of poverty, however, is one of the greatest challenges facing the people of our planet. This very day, 836 million people are living in extreme poverty.  

What does this mean? It means, too many people, too many New Zealanders, are still struggling for the most basic human needs.

SDG #2 Zero Hunger 

Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain a huge barrier to development in many countries. 795 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2014, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and loss of biodiversity. But even in developed ‘first world’ countries like New Zealand, there are still families and children that live with hunger.7.3% of New Zealand households are experiencing low food security and frequently have insufficient food.

Food insecurity occurs when people do not have consistent access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate food. More recent research tells us that food insecurity among low income groups in New Zealand is increasing. This means that more and more New Zealand’s families are struggling to put enough food on the table.

Helping to solve this issue involves promoting sustainable agricultural practices: supporting small scale farmers and allowing equal access to land, technology and markets. In New Zealand, it also requires a closing of the growing income gap between the fed and the hungry.

SDG #3 Good Health and Well-Being

Did you know that more than 6 million children still die before their fifth birthday every year? 6,000 of these children die each day from preventable diseases, such as measles and tuberculosis. Every day hundreds of women die during pregnancy or from child-birth related complications. In many rural areas, only 56 percent of births are attended by skilled professionals. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among teenagers in sub-Saharan Africa, a region still severely devastated by the HIV epidemic.

In New Zealand there are significant inequalities in sexual and reproductive health outcomes, particularly for Māori. Although we’ve seen improvements, New Zealand still has high rates of teenage pregnancy as well as high and inequitable rates of sexually transmissible infections.These incidences can be avoided through prevention and treatment, education, immunization campaigns, and sexual and reproductive healthcare. The goal, is to make a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030. The aim is to achieve universal health coverage, and provide access to safe and affordable medicines and vaccines for all. Supporting research and development for vaccines is an essential part of this process as well.

SDG #4 Quality Education

Children from the poorest households are up to four times more likely to be out of school than those of the richest households. There are still unfair gaps between people from rural areas and people from urban areas.

Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.

SDG #5 Gender Equality

Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, but it also a key ingredient to growing as a fair and sustainable planet. It has been proven time and again, that empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect, and helps drive up economic growth and development across all aspects of life.

In New Zealand, Pacifica women earn just two thirds of what Pakeha men earn.

In our high schools, transgender students are nearly five times as likely to be bullied as their peers, which impacts both their access to education and their wellbeing.

One third of New Zealand women report unmet need for primary health care compared to only 23% of men, and of course for trans and gender diverse people, access to healthcare is even more fraught.

Did you know just one third of our MPs are women?

The SDGs aim to ensure that there is an end to discrimination against women and girls across the globe. There are still huge inequalities in the labour market in some regions, with women denied equal access to jobs. Sexual violence and exploitation, the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work, and discrimination in public office, all remain huge barriers.

Providing women equal rights to economic resources such as land and property are key targets to realising this goal. So is ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health. Today there are more women in public office than ever before, but encouraging women leaders will help strengthen policies and legislation for greater gender equality.

SDG #6 Clean Water and Sanitation

Not having enough water affects more than 40 percent of people around the world. This is a shocking number that is predicated to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a result of climate change. Although 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved water sanitation since 1990, dwindling supplies of safe drinking water is a major problem impacting every continent.

In 2011, 41 countries experienced water stress – 10 of which are close to depleting their supply of renewable freshwater and must now rely on alternative sources. Increasing drought and desertification is already worsening these trends. By 2050, scientists predict that at least one in four people will be affected by repeated water shortages.

Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems such as forests, mountains, wetlands and rivers is essential if we are to counter this lack of water. More international cooperation is also needed to encourage smarter use of water, and to support treatment technologies in developing countries (aka, systems to turn dirty water into drinkable water).

SDG #7 Affordable and Clean Energy

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people with access to electricity has increased by 1.7 billion, and as the global population continues to rise so will the demand for cheap energy. We use fuels to heat our houses, and to drive our cars. These fuels come from the earth and will eventually run out, because we use them faster than the earth can make them. They’re called fossil fuels. A global economy that relies on fossil fuels, and the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, is causing big changes to our climate system that is not good for anyone- its’ impacting every continent.

Clean energy is what we need: energy from the sun, the wind, or heat from the ground. Energy from these sources is also renewable- this means we won’t run out of it! Efforts to encourage clean energy has resulted in more than 20 percent of global power being generated by renewable sources as of 2011. Still, one in seven people lack access to electricity, and as the demand continues to rise, there needs to be a much bigger increase in the production of renewable energy across the world.

Making sure the whole world has access to affordable electricity by 2030 means putting money, time, and research into clean energy sources. Adopting cost-effective standards for a wider range of technologies could also reduce the global electricity consumption by buildings and industry by 14 percent. A key step to achieving this is to provide clean energy in all developing countries, because it will encourage growth and help the environment.  

SDG #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Over the past 25 years the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015.

However, as the global economy continues to recover we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to keep up with a growing labour force. More than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015.

Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are the key to promoting stable economic growth, higher levels of productivity, and technological innovation. Seeing this in action by 2030 would mean we are succeeding at achieving this SDG. These are important because as they grow, forced labour, slavery and human trafficking decrease. The goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

SDG #9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure and innovation are crucial drivers of economic growth and development. With over half the world population now living in cities, mass transport and renewable energy are becoming ever more important, as are the growth of new industries and information and communication technologies.

Technological progress is also key to finding lasting solutions to both economic and environmental challenges, such as providing new jobs and promoting energy efficiency. Promoting sustainable industries, and investing in scientific research and innovation, are all important ways to facilitate sustainable development.

More than 4 billion people still do not have access to the Internet, and 90 percent are from the developing world. Bridging this digital divide is crucial to ensure equal access to information and knowledge, as well as foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

SDG #10 Reduced Inequalities

Income inequality is on the rise: the richest 10 percent earn up to 40 percent of total global income. The poorest 10 percent earn only between 2 percent and 7 percent of total global income. In developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 percent, if we take into account the growth of population.

This growing gap between rich and poor requires the adoption of sound policies to empower the lowest percentile of income earners, and to promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race or ethnicity.

Income inequality is a global problem that requires global solutions. This involves improving the regulation and monitoring of financial markets and institutions, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where the need is greatest. Facilitating the safe migration and mobility of people is also key to bridging the widening divide.

SDG#11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

The rapid growth of cities in the developing world + increasing numbers of people moving from rural areas to cities = a boom in mega-cities.

In 1990, there were ten mega-cities with 10 million inhabitants or more. In 2014, there are 28 mega-cities, home to a total 453 million people. How the world has grown!

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.

Extreme poverty is often concentrated in urban spaces, and national and city governments struggle to accommodate the rising population in these areas. Making cities safe and sustainable means ensuring access to safe and affordable housing, and upgrading slum settlements. It also involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in a way that is both participatory and inclusive.



SDG #12 Responsible Consumption and Production

Achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires that we urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater for human use.

The efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants, are important targets to achieve this goal. Encouraging industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste is equally important, as is supporting developing countries to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption by 2030.

A large share of the world population is still consuming far too little to meet even their basic needs.  Halving the per capita of global food waste at the retailer and consumer levels is also important for creating more efficient production and supply chains. This can help with food security, and shift us towards a more resource efficient economy.

SDG #13 Climate Action

There is no country in the world that is not experiencing first-hand the drastic effects of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and are now more than 50 percent higher than their 1990 level. Further, global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system, which threatens irreversible consequences if we do not take action now.

The annual average losses from earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones and flooding amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, requiring an investment of US$6 billion annually in disaster risk management alone. The goal aims to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries and help mitigate climate-related disasters.

Helping more vulnerable regions, such as land locked countries and island states, adapt to climate change must go hand in hand with efforts to integrate disaster risk measures into national strategies. It is still possible, with the political will and a wide array of technological measures, to limit the increase in global average temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, this requires urgent collective action.


SDG #14 Life Below Water

The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. How we manage this vital resource is essential for humanity as a whole, and to counter balance the effects of climate change.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, today we are seeing 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks overexploited, reaching below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields.

Oceans also absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, and we are seeing a 26 percent rise in ocean acidification since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Marine pollution, an overwhelming majority of which comes from human activity on the land, is reaching alarming levels, with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter to be found on every square kilometre of ocean.

The SDGs aim to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution. We need to enhance our conservation and the sustainable use of ocean-based resources through international law, to help counteract some of the challenges facing our oceans.


SDG #15 Life On Land

Human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihoods. Plant life provides 80 percent of our human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource and means of development. Forests make up 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, providing homes for millions of species, and are important sources for clean air and water; they’re also a key ingredient to help us combat climate change.

Today we are seeing never-before-seen land degradation, and the continuing loss of land that is able to be farmed. Drought and a growing desert area are also on the rise each year, affecting poor communities globally. Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 percent are extinct and 22 percent are at risk of extinction. This is an absolute tragedy: we need to reduce the loss of these natural habitats and the biodiversity, before its too late.

The SDGs aim to conserve and restore the use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains by 2020. Halting deforestation is also vital to mitigating the impact of climate change. Urgent action must be taken to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage.



SDG #16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law - we cannot hope for sustainable development. We are living in a world that is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity, while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is by no means inevitable and must be addressed.

High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country’s development, affecting economic growth and often resulting in long standing grievances that can last for generations. Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are also prevalent where there is conflict or no rule of law, and countries must take measures to protect those who are most at risk.

The SDGs aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights is key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.

SDG #17 Partnership for the Goals

The SDGs can only be realised with a strong commitment to global partnership and cooperation. While official development assistance from developed countries increased by 66 percent between 2000 and 2014, humanitarian crises brought on by conflict or natural disasters continue to demand more financial resources and aid. Many countries also require Official Development Assistance to encourage growth and trade.

The world today is more interconnected than ever before. Improving access to technology and knowledge is an important way to share ideas and to encourage innovation. Coordinating policies to help developing countries manage their debt, as well as promoting investment for the least developed, is vital to achieve sustainable growth and development.

The goals aim to enhance North-South and South-South cooperation by supporting national plans to achieve all the targets. Promoting international trade, and helping developing countries increase their exports, is all part of achieving a universal rules-based and equitable trading system that is fair and open, and benefits all. As New Zealanders, we need to look at how we support the developing countries around us.