This morning I attended the launch of the Clean Technology Centre in Otaki - a small town that hugs the Kaptiti coast just north of Wellington. The centre has been six years in the making and is a joint initiative between the Kapiti Coast District Council and Grow Wellington, the region’s economic development agency.
And today was the day that the project emphatically came to life.
The Centre will be a breeding ground for innovation and cutting edge clean technologies such as solar, biofuels, waste-to-energy and renewable power generation - all of which have the potential to transform our local, regional and national economies and will play a critical role in the fight against climate change. It was exciting and refreshing to see business, politics, science and community fuse together as the region’s mayors, councillors and community groups were flanked by industry leader Stephen Tindall and the Minister for Research, Science and Technology Wayne Mapp. And the message was clear - the future's bright, clean and green - to which we all raised a glass of something fruity.
However despite the Minister's positive overtures about the future of clean technology in New Zealand, I couldn't help notice that someone was missing. It seemed extraordinary that if NASA are looking to set up shop, and given the huge economic potential that the transition to a clean economy could bring, Gerry Brownlee, Minister for Economic Development, was absent. So often the cheerleader for the archaic fossil fuel industry, his absence was further indication that he doesn't have the vision to build a clean, sustainable, secure future in a carbon-constrained world.
And as a reminder of just how high the stakes are, after leaving the opening I learned that outside the centre oil from a recent spill in the Taranaki Basin was washing up on the local beach - typifying the very environmental disaster that the 'Minister for Coal and Oil' risks upon our pristine coastlines by declaring open season on our deep sea oil reserves.
It is clear that initiatives like the Clean Technology Centre have to be the start of a nationwide epidemic, actively incentivised by government and used as a template for a new clean economy. By harnessing world-class Kiwi thinking we could place New Zealand at the forefront of the global clean technology race, and I'd like to think that history will celebrate the energy, commitment and foresight of these home-grown pioneers, who took this first, vital step.