Research urged for 'green growth'

MARIA SLADE
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012

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New Zealand should update ageing research on the economic value of its clean green brand, and develop a register of its "natural capital", a new report says.

The recommendations are among 21 put forward in a report commissioned by Pure Advantage, a group of prominent Kiwi business leaders who are championing a vision of "green growth" for the New Zealand economy.

Green Growth: Opportunities for New Zealand, by London-based economics consultancy Vivid Economics and Auckland University Business School, follows an earlier Pure Advantage report which said New Zealand urgently needed to improve its mediocre environmental record and protect its image.

The latest study is a how-to guide, and offers suggestions, from investigating the installation of a smart grid to allow easier connection of renewable power generation sources to developing large-scale second-generation biofuel production.

It says it has been more than a decade since a 2001 Environment Ministry report valued New Zealand's clean green image and showed that a sharp deterioration in that perception would lead to a $760 million loss in tourism income alone.

Report author Kathryn Smith said given the importance of the brand to New Zealand, it was at least worth updating the research and looking at how it could be used to improve export performance, particularly in Asia.

It could help address misconceptions - for example, people often looked at New Zealand's gross carbon emissions without adjusting for the offset of its huge forests. On the other hand, it would identify our weaknesses.

"Something like New Zealand's 20-20 targets [20 per cent increase in energy efficiency, 20 per cent reduction of CO 2 emissions, and 20 per cent renewables by 2020] and the Kyoto Protocol . . . that could quite understandably damage New Zealand's clean green image."

This country's withdrawal from Kyoto was "not likely to be viewed well at all", she said.

The report also says government and industry should develop a register of natural assets that are or could become important to tourism, and their condition and performance.

Pure Advantage is a not-for-profit entity whose trustees include Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe, Villa Maria founder George Fistonich and former General Motors chief financial officer Chris Liddell.

Kiwibank chairman and group chairman Rob Morrison said New Zealand needed to "walk the talk" of its clean and green image to become a player in the shift to a global green economy.

Unless the country could add value to exports it would "slip down the OECD ladder", he said.

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The report recommends New Zealand set a pathway to achieve the OECD average share of research and development spending as a percentage of GDP.

New Zealand stood out for its low expenditure, and although the Government's spending was also below the OECD average, the main problem was that Kiwi businesses spent little on R&D.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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