Business bosses call for green growth

MARIA SLADE
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2012

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New Zealand needs to pull its environmental socks up and promote "green growth", says a group of influential business leaders.

Pure Advantage, a not-for-profit entity whose backers include Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe, Villa Maria founder George Fistonich and former General Motors chief financial officer Chris Liddell, has released a paper saying New Zealand should be leading the global race to generate economic growth out of green technologies, but isn't.

The report, New Zealand's Position in the Green Race, says the country urgently needs to improve its environmental record and protect its image. "There is very little co-ordinated planning in New Zealand around what green growth represents and what it could potentially mean for the country," chairman Rob Morrison said.

The report offers a litany of New Zealand's mediocre environmental credentials. We have slipped from first to 14th on the Yale University Environmental Performance Index. Our per capita carbon emissions are the fifth worst in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and will overtake those of the US on a per capita basis in less than eight years.

Our housing stock is among the coldest and the least efficient in the OECD. Three quarters of our threatened species lack targeted recovery work.

During the global financial crisis most OECD countries included significant clean economy investment as part of stimulus packages. The New Zealand Government's 2009 package missed this opportunity, the report says.

"New Zealand's economy needs strong leadership to embrace the high-value green economy and lift it out of its economic malaise.

"This is our opportunity to emerge from Australia's shadow, not by following that country's carbon intensive industries but by breaking ahead in the pursuit of a green economy."

Pure Advantage member Geoff Ross said the group was focused on the potential for business.

"If as a byproduct we create a better environment then that's fantastic, but our primary focus is communicating the economic opportunities," he said.

"New Zealand kind of missed the tech boom and we've missed out on various other global moves in consumer behaviour. There is going to be a global move towards greener brands and we're a sitter to make the most of it."

As a marketer of consumer products around the world he had experienced the advantage of New Zealand's clean green image, and yet the talk at home was about the costs of becoming a low carbon economy, he said.

The Green Party supported the work of Pure Advantage, co-leader Russel Norman said.

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"What this offers is a way to deal with our conventional economic problems but also an opportunity to make our economy more sustainable," he said.

The National Government's focus on initiatives such as deep-sea oil drilling, coal mining and subsidising irrigation was taking the country in exactly the opposite direction to where its real economic opportunities lay, he said.

Pure Advantage will release a second report on its strategy for achieving green growth, prepared by Vivid Economics and Auckland University, later this year.

- Fairfax Media

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