Last week I spoke on behalf of Greenpeace at a packed public meeting in Dunedin, where the community is trying to save forty important jobs from being axed - by Government-owned Kiwirail.

These jobs, at the Hillside rail workshop, belong to highly skilled workers building modern, efficient trains that help reduce our dependence on oil.

They're the kind of "green collar" jobs and skills that our country needs a lot more of if we are going to prosper in the 21st century.

With oil prices rising and an urgent need to reduce transport emissions, now is the time we must set New Zealand on a more economically and environmentally sustainable path.

Yet current Government policies are undermining our economic potential by failing to reduce our dependence on oil, and failing to foster a 'green collar sector'.

New Zealand is ideally positioned, with an innovative and skilled population, to become a global leader in clean economic solutions including sustainable transport, renewable energy and clean technology. These sectors will be the major growth industries of the 21st century.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers report estimates that the clean-tech sector could be worth up to $22 billion to the New Zealand economy.

To take advantage of this opportunity, Government must invest in, build and support the local "green collar" jobs and industries that represent the future of our economy.

We must focus more on initiatives like the newly opened Clean Energy Centre near Taupo that Nathan blogged about yesterday. It is itself a model of energy efficient and green design and has been established to accelerate the uptake of clean energy solutions by industry, communities, businesses and households across New Zealand. It's showcasing our talent for innovation to the world and is a perfect example of the way New Zealand should be positioning itself.

Sadly, though the Government is undermining that initiative by killing green-collar jobs while it continues to subsidise the fossil fuel industry.

The Government is sending its train-building contracts offshore instead of investing in growing New Zealand's clean-tech sector.  At the same time, they're failing to support public transport solutions, like Auckland's central city rail loop.
As a result, the jobs of dozens of Kiwi workers, and the families and communities that depend on them, are under threat.

Many more will follow if we don't act now and send a clear message to the Government.

There is huge support and growing demand around New Zealand for major improvements to public transport, and for supporting Kiwi industry and workers to help us to deliver those improvements.  

Investment in our rail infrastructure will benefit our economy by reducing New Zealand's dependence on oil and reducing our carbon emissions.  It will also help retain and create the types of jobs that can make our country prosper in the 21st century.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Transport Minister, Steven Joyce not to kill green-collar jobs.  He must invest in sustainable transport in this country, and in those who help build it.

Photo: CC @celebdu