Green business group hits back at Govt
A group of prominent Kiwi business leaders has hit back at government criticism that its plan for green growth is self interested, and would be ''value destroying'' for the nation's economy.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said he ''fundamentally disagreed'' with the approach of the not-for-profit Pure Advantage group, after earlier accusing the top businesspeople of bias in asking for subsidies.
The group, whose trustees include Air New Zealand chief Rob Fyfe, Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich and The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall, released a report earlier this month criticising New Zealand's lack of movement towards environmentally-friendly economic growth.
Tindall has an interest in clean-tech company LanzaTech which aims to turn industrial waste gases into biofuels, and Air New Zealand is anxious to find viable and inexpensive alternative jet fuels.
But Pure Advantage chairman Rob Morrison - who is also chairman of Kiwibank - said the appeal of green growth should be obvious and the only bias the group was showing was towards the future economic health of New Zealand.
''Those people who have read the report will understand that Pure Advantage's focus is not on the small section of the opportunities such as those in clean technology, as valuable as this area might be, but rather on the potential $6 trillion opportunity represented by the global shift to green growth.''
Joyce told Parliament this week that the idea New Zealand should ''throw away'' competitive advantages in traditional industries and ''focus solely on a small section of our opportunities'' such as clean-tech was ''quite unrealistic''.
Such a movement towards green growth would be ''a highly dislocating shift that would leave us poorer for an extended period of time''.
Pure Advantage was not talking about a narrow sub-sector of the economy, nor was it advocating a narrow focus on clean tech, Morrison said.
''For New Zealand with an existing clean and green brand which is our competitive advantage, along with skills and experience in low energy intensity food production, sustainable forestry and fisheries, water and waste management and low carbon electricity generation, the appeal of green growth should be obvious.''
Opposition MP David Cunliffe has jumped into the debate, calling Joyce's criticism of the report ''scathing and unwarranted''.
''At a time when the evidence of dangerous climate change and pollution are all around us, Mr Joyce's savage attack on business leaders who do have a credible plan for sustainable growth does nothing to build consensus around needed change.''
In response to Parliamentary questioning from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, Joyce said the business leaders were ''arguing for subsidies for the industries that they like''.
''The member needs to open his eyes and see what they are requesting. All the countries in the world that he talks about, and that are quoted in this report, are making big subsidies to otherwise uneconomic industries and that is not a path to prosperity for New Zealand.''
Norman argued that the Government was subsidising its own favourite sectors of the economy, citing the agriculture sector's exemption from the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Pure Advantage said it was not asking for specific subsidies and had not yet considered that level of detail.
The report described the Government's Green Growth Advisory Group [GGAG] as a missed opportunity and said there was ''little evidence of serious consideration by government of alternative economic growth options''.
The report was the first step in a business-led attempt to change the nation's priorities, starting with informing the public about the business case for large-scale, environmentally-friendly industry.
''Pure Advantage does not anticipate extensive government investment in green growth in the foreseeable future,'' the report said.
''Industry is therefore best placed to take a leadership role as it has the largest financial imperative and the greatest ability to invest.''
However Pure Advantage assumed the government might be willing to ''remove policy roadblocks and provide incentives'' if industry leaders could demonstrate a willingness to invest.
The report, New Zealand's Position in the Green Race, is available from www.pureadvantage.org.
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