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Duncan Stewart, manager of Pure Advantage, NZ Herald, Monday 2nd April 2012:


Many New Zealand businesses, especially those that export, are dependent on New Zealand keeping its clean, green image to a high standard. Once, New Zealand was the cleanest nation in the world. But today, says lobby group Pure Advantage, we’re quietly slipping down rankings on just about every environmental and economic performance indicator.


What is Pure Advantage and who is behind it?

Pure Advantage is developing a green growth vision and business case for New Zealand. The initiative is backed by some of New Zealand’s most successful business leaders, including chairman Rob Morrison, Chris Liddell, Sir Stephen Tindall, Geoff Ross, Jeremy Moon, Joan Withers, the late Sir Paul Callaghan, Justine Smyth, Sir George Fistonich, Phillip Mills, Rob Fyfe and the late Lloyd Morrison.


How exactly do you define green growth?

Various formal definitions talk about economic growth which acknowledges and accounts for natural capital and environmental externalities.

A green growth future might include a dramatic reduction in the importation of fossil fuels through the substitution of renewable and carbon-neutral fuels, energy efficiency through healthier buildings, and maintaining and improving our native biodiversity through market instruments.

Green growth can be achieved by better allocation and management of water resources and the export of high-value, low-carbon products and services that would result from investment in these areas.


What are the key challenges in developing this vision of a green New Zealand?

Each country’s “recipe” for green growth is unique, and needs time and research to develop. Pure Advantage has commissioned some leading economists to review New Zealand’s green growth challenges and opportunities. New Zealand has dropped down a list of countries for environmental performance since being ranked first in 2006. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s GDP is 20 per cent below the average of OECD countries, while Australia’s is 20 per cent above the average.


Research is useful but how will Pure Advantage actually create change?

Once we believe we have a strong business case and an overarching green growth vision, we intend to recruit corporate champions to spearhead a number of green growth industry initiatives such as smart-grid, energy efficiency and bio-energy.

We believe currently the Government is unlikely or unable to make significant investment in green growth. But if industry makes some investment and moves on specific initiatives, the Government will be encouraged to remove roadblocks and provide further incentives.


What concerns Pure Advantage about the current approach in New Zealand to maintaining its green image?

We’re not doing enough. New Zealand is falling behind other countries in performance and policies. Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index ranked us first in 2006 and 14th in 2012. Opportunities are ours for the taking if we improve our green credentials, foster high-value exports and build industries that thrive in a rapidly changing global economy.


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