Anti-mining march

Today, Pure Advantage, the business group whose backers include Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe, Villa Maria founder George Fistonich and Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall, released a report into New Zealand’s environmental record, and its efforts to protect its global reputation.

The report, New Zealand's Position in the Green Race, says the country urgently needs to raise its game and restore integrity to its clean, green reputation. Offering a litany of missed opportunities and lacklustre vision, it is a sobering insight into the failures of successive governments to safeguard our once clean, green nation.

Amongst our failings, it tells us that our per-capita carbon emissions are the fifth worst in the OECD, and will overtake those of the US on a per-capita basis in less than eight years. Our water quality induces 18,000 – 34,000 cases of water borne disease each year. And as a result, we have slipped from first to 14th on the Yale University Environmental Performance Index.

If this were the All Blacks team sliding down the IRB rankings, would we be so ambivalent and complacent, or would we demand changes and immediate action?

This damning indictment, sadly, is not entirely surprising given the fossil fuel bedfellows that our Government currently keeps. We have a Government that has underpinned the nation’s financial fortune on risky frontier, deep water oil drilling, and mining that threatens to lock us into a high-carbon, high-cost future, and isolate us from the global clean energy race.

In a resource-constrained world, progressive countries and businesses are crafting initiatives to reap the huge benefits from clean, economic growth, yet our Government has repeatedly failed to build on our renewable energy know-how and global reputation. And this will be an opportunity lost to our longer-term growth and economic well-being.

The most pertinent point in the report is the fact that green business is big business - global green growth is potentially worth NZ$6 trillion a year – yet the Government seems paralysed when you mention the word ‘green.’ Inertia and myopia have corroded National’s vision for what a truly sustainable New Zealand could look like.

The fact that the Government is constantly trying to balance economic development with environmental protection underlines just how regressive its economic policies are. The sooner they realise that there is no tension between green and growth – that our economy depends on the health of our environment - the sooner New Zealand will be on a pathway to a cleaner, smarter, more resilient economy.

The Pure Advantage report clearly underlines that environmental protection can deliver huge opportunities to grow innovation and make businesses more efficient, as well as enhancing our social well-being. And that instead of shying away from the opportunities presented by the global shift to a cleaner, smarter way of doing business, New Zealand needs to recognise and embrace them.

In doing so, we need a clear policy framework that’s backed by Government, and sends a clear signal to the world that New Zealand is open for business – clean, smart, sustainable business –that will ensure future prosperity for this country.