Philanthropist Gareth Morgan has slated New Zealand's "green extreme" for being anti-economic development and thwarting the mainstreaming of conservation.
At the annual Forest & Bird conference in Wellington at the weekend, he said New Zealanders were preoccupied with jobs and families, and conservation and the environment were only "occasional visitors into that space".
"Recycling bins seem to be our most telling advance," he said.
The multimillionaire economist railed against "green-necks", "tub thumpers" and "tree huggers", and said political parties championing conservation must be willing to form coalitions "otherwise they're rightly seen as just lefty loonies".
Dr Morgan also questioned the Green Party's refusal to go into coalition with National. "What is that about? Is this a party concerned with conservation or a far-Left group using conservation as a Trojan horse for another agenda? Does it still cling to the anachronism that economic growth is not compatible with conservation?"
Green MP Eugenie Sage said the party was not using conservation as a Trojan horse.
Enhancing the environment was a huge opportunity to improve New Zealand's economic competitiveness and create jobs and green growth, she said.
"It's an opportunity, not a cost. We can have a resilient economy that protects our natural environment, creates well-paying jobs and shares our prosperity fairly.
"Retaining our state energy companies and redirecting them to get a slice of the trillion-dollar global market in clean-tech, low-carbon goods and services and renewable energy development would help do that," she said.
Dr Morgan advocated a move to "considered conservation" as a "successor to the green extreme".
Forest & Bird president Andrew Cutler said: "The stereotype that we always oppose developments and industry is out of date and just plain wrong. We recognise that working with industry and business is part of the answer to our conservation crisis."
- The Dominion Post
What do you think of claims Kiwis have been misled about mass surveillance?Related story: US spy base in NZ?