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Region’s chance to blaze green trail

Written by Tamlyn Stewart, from the Timaru Herald 11th June 2012:

Canterbury has unique opportunities in both the rebuild of Christchurch and Lincoln University’s world-leading agricultural scientists to capitalise on, and strengthen New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand.

That is the view of Ecoya chief executive Geoff Ross, a founding member of business leaders’ group Pure Advantage, which advocates a greener, wealthier country, aiming to safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation, and capitalise on the competitive edge it gives the country.

In a report released today entitled “New Zealand’s position in the green race”, the group says New Zealand has “a lot to learn” about taking advantage of its unique strengths to get ahead in the global green economy.

The report was a “call to action” for leaders in business and government to help shape New Zealand’s green growth.

Ross said specifically in Canterbury there was an opportunity to develop new building techniques and construction techniques that other countries could adopt.

“The IP we develop in the rebuild of Christchurch around greener buildings – those types of techniques would be picked up offshore and we could sell that expertise offshore.”

To create, through the rebuild, the world’s greenest city would be a “fantastic poster” for New Zealand, Ross said.

The 100% Pure was a valuable brand for New Zealand’s tourism industry, but needed to be carefully guarded.

“The first thing is to make sure we put our money where our mouth is. We can’t make advertising claims without backing it up.”

The internet made it easy for people to see into your backyard and assess environmental performance particularly in the tourism sector, Ross said.

“Those tourism operators who lead in environmental ethics are going to be those that attract more customers in future as consumers go to greener opportunities.”

New Zealand’s 100% Pure credentials world wide were “incredibly valuable” for attracting tourists.

For Canterbury, where agriculture forms a major part of the region’s economy, Lincoln University was a real advantage as it was one of the leading agricultural universities in the world, Ross said.

Other agriculture-based economies faced the same challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and New Zealand could capitalise on that because of the quality of agricultural scientists at universities like Massey and Lincoln.

The technologies and farming techniques with lower emission effects developed here, could be exported to the rest of the world, Ross said.

The 100% Pure brand was still fairly strong but critical media reports in Britain ridiculing New Zealand’s 100% Pure claim had revealed that New Zealand was vulnerable.

“We can’t make advertising claims to the rest of the world that this is a pure place if in fact that’s not true. If that keeps happening then it will damage us for sure.”

The report said studies had shown that a 5 per cent drop in reputation and consequent drop in demand for primary products and international tourism would cost the economy more than 22,000 jobs.

A “fundamental risk” lay in failing to deliver a credible business case for industry, it said.

Pure Advantage has commissioned a macro-economic review to determine the key high-value green growth opportunities for New Zealand, due to be released in the third quarter of this year.

Pure Advantage trustees include Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, former Carter Holt Harvey head Chris Liddell and Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall.

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