Green growth means a shift to more sustainable, or greener, ways of operating and developing modern economies. The Government appointed the Green Growth Advisory Group to explore, and report on:
- how New Zealand, and in particular Government agencies, can help exporters leverage greater value in international markets from our clean, green brand;
- opportunities for smarter use of existing technologies and innovation, as well as greater development and adoption of new technologies (including clean technology) in our productive sectors; and
- the options for our small and medium-sized businesses to move to a lower carbon economy while sustaining the desired level of productive growth.
The Green Growth Report was published in December and makes a series of 26 recommendations to the Government consistent with the OECD policy framework for the “greening of growth”.
The report emphasises the pivotal role played by small to medium sized enterprises in New Zealand and encourages the Government to facilitate businesses’ practical understanding of how to improve environmental performance, both through the use of up to date technologies and by making it easier and simpler to access support. In order to achieve the desired changes in the business sector, more effective links are encouraged between businesses and research institutes such as universities. As a part of this process the Government is encouraged to provide more support for the adoption of existing overseas knowledge and technology into New Zealand.
In addition to the focus on medium sized enterprises, the Green Growth Report also identifies the “New Zealand” brand as a “valuable asset” for companies operating in the international market. The strengthening of the “clean green” brand is therefore encouraged in order to enhance New Zealand’s international business reputation.
In the public sector, the Report encourages the Government to provide special attention to construction and healthcare. In particular, high priority is given to considering green factors when undertaking the rebuild of Christchurch. For these public sector agencies, the Report recommends the establishment of an “invest-to-save” fund in order to enable agencies to shift sooner to greener technologies and practices. This fund would provide interest free loans to assist agencies in meeting the higher up-front costs associated with purchasing environmentally-friendly products, services and technologies, in order to produce net financial gains in the longer term.
For companies planning economic development projects, the Report also advocates the creation of a nationally consistent biodiversity offsetting regime. This recommendation stems from the RMA’s requirement that applicants undertaking development projects avoid, remedy and mitigate the effects of their activities on the environment. Various RMA participants have introduced the concept of “offsets”, whereby applicants seek to quantify the effects of their projects and undertake other actions to “offset” the harm. The difficulty with the current system is that the practices of applicants in offering “offsets” or consent authorities imposing them, has been variable and ad hoc. The development of a nationally consistent regime would aid in producing greater consistency, however the application of this regime also needs to be carefully considered in the RMA context which is not a no effects statute, and in our view offsets should not be expressed as a bottom line requirement where effects can not be avoided, remedied or mitigated. The recent decision of the Board of Inquiry considering plan changes for Transmission Gully helped to clarify the position regarding offsets in the current regime. They are to be regarded as a subset of mitigation.
In addition to these more general recommendations, the Report also makes specific suggestions for the greening of growth across the four primary sectors which have been identified as the basis of New Zealand’s future economic growth: food and beverage production, tourism, high-value manufacturing services, and mineral and petroleum extraction. Most controversially, the report has renewed debate surrounding mining, suggesting that the Government should start public “discourse” towards achieving greater consensus amongst New Zealanders on whether petroleum and mineral resources should be extracted. The Government is also encouraged to investigate the ways in which New Zealand could secure economic, environmental and community benefits from the royalties derived from allowing mineral and petroleum extraction.
The report considers that New Zealand is well placed to move towards greener practices by adopting the suggested recommendations.