sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Gareth Morgan says NZ is crying out: give us a suite of green growth policies that are credible and "make NZ a place where talent wants to live". Your view?

Gareth Morgan says NZ is crying out: give us a suite of green growth policies that are credible and "make NZ a place where talent wants to live". Your view?

By Gareth Morgan*

In this its second term, a yawning gap has appeared between the actions of National and the clean and green rhetoric it trots out on the international stage.

Our 100% Pure image has most recently been called out by the New York Times who called it as “fantastical as dragons and wizards” – a reference to the forthcoming Hobbit movie launch.

The New York Times article points out a 2010 study which ranks us as the 18th worst country in the world for environmental damage, citing forest and other natural habitat loss, our carbon emissions and water pollution as major contributors.

These factors all remain in the firing line as the National Government’s tries to squeeze all the economic growth it can out of our resources.

The Government’s response is to sweep them all under the carpet by instructing the Ministry for the Environment to cease publishing its State of the Environment Report.

Let’s quickly look at each of the issues in turn.

Forest habitat for native species was offered a reprieve under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and offshoots like the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI) which aimed to encourage native forest regeneration. Now that the global financial crisis and Government tinkering have torpedoed the ETS, there is no real incentive for investment in forestry. In fact those poor mugs who opted into the PFSI, planting native forests for their value as carbon sinks are stuck paying bills on a native forest that is now worthless.

Next, National has opted to walk away from Kyoto and has thrown in its lot with the major polluting countries like China, the US and Russia.

Our emissions are among the highest in the world and without any credible policies to restrain them our Government’s commitments to reduce emissions are nothing but hollow promises – as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has highlighted. Incredibly we are now behind coal-chugging Australia in climate change action.

On water pollution we are nearing a crucial moment.

Regional Councils like Horizons in the Manawatu are trying to set pollution limits to modestly reduce the degradation of our rivers, and work out rational ways of sharing the water in the rivers amongst different users.

The Land and Water Forum has got everyone in the tent for a lot of talking and hui but now the time has come for do-ey.

The question is will the Government support setting environmental standards that can save our rivers, or will they water down the whole concept in favour of chasing economic growth?

This will become clear in coming months, but from what we have seen it points to them okaying increased degradation as a means for economic development.

Sir Paul Callaghan said it best back in 2009,

We believe that we have a clean economy and a clean green image, and do not see the lack of honesty which surrounds this branding. We are merely a small population spread over a large area which provides an impression of clean and green.

The economic problem we face is a competition with Australia. Mining is driving their boom and it is difficult to compete with. It is a relatively lucrative yet low-skilled undertaking, and as a result Western Australia is attracting people from all over the world.

The only way for Key and Co to keep up with Australia during their short political tenure is also by extracting the most they can from our limited resources; not just minerals but also our waterways and land.

The difference is that Australia’s land is inert, it has no value other than minerals in its dry crust.

New Zealand is not in that position as our land is full of life, and degradation is all the more marked here.

Are there alternatives? Yes, but it takes hard decisions, investment, and time – nothing that a Government wanting to be returned in 2 years will want to hear, particularly not one that holds natural capital as being of questionable value.

Adjusting to an economy that’s health doesn’t depend on greater and greater environmental degradation is overdue in New Zealand.

We are not a poor country, we’re three times richer than we were in 1960, and given the economic storm in Europe we have recently recovered a lot of lost ground compared to other nations.

We live in times of great prosperity – at least measured via conventional means such as GDP or national income per capita.

Income per head is three times what it was fifty years ago in 1960, which is progress for sure even though we’re down to about 30th in the world, having been steadily overtaken on that measure by other countries over recent decades.

Thankfully the leadership vacuum in Government is being filled by the business community.

Pure Advantage, a grouping of some NZ business leaders that has released their plan for “Green Growth”.

The plan is by no means perfect, but it provides a lot more flesh on the bones of the sort of waffly ideas that the Greens and Labour have been touting in recent years.

Pure Advantage has finally provided these parties a tangible offering with solid business backing.

You might think this has National worried – although the actions of a cabal of its senior Ministers to accelerate the rate of environmental deprecation would give lie to such a thought.

Realistically, clean tech and other green growth initiatives aren’t going to light up the New Zealand economy overnight. We have to pursue a combination of doing what we do now better, as well as finding new innovations and industries to grow.

No change comes cheaply – ask a farmer what it actually costs for them to mitigate the environmental impact of their activity – nutrient recycling technologies for instance.

However, over time with innovation and investment we can stay at the cutting edge of clean and green farming, and enhance our position as premium food producers.

But to make these long term investments we need policy certainty – something that the Government has deliberately set out of late to undermine not just by blatantly resisting change and trotting off down a low value commodity route, but by threatening to change laws like the RMA to make environmental degradation easier.

Conservation and ecological sustainability is a mainstream issue, no longer the preserve of a narrow, myopic sector of interest.

The mainstream of New Zealand, I suggest, is crying out: give us a suite of green growth policies that are credible and “make NZ a place”, as Sir Paul said, “where talent wants to live”.

Come on, at the moment the only thing that is green about our growth is the algae collecting in our rivers.


Gareth Morgan is a businessman, economist, investment manager, motor cycle adventurer, public commentator and philanthropist. This opinion piece was first published on his new blog and is reprinted here with permission.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Nice article Gareth. Too many, including some on this site just want to give up, become like everybody else and exploit our natural capital until its gone and we live in a wasteland.
What happened to Task Force Green? We have polluted waterways, a need to fence and revegitate farm boundaries for those waterways and massive un/under employment. Can't government and farmers get together to use these human resources to achieve a benefit for all. Yes farmers will get a private benefit from a mass fencing and native planting programme but so too will the nation as a whole and with immediate social and environmental effect. Money can come from central and regional government as well as a farmer contribution.

Fair point Gareth
Yes we do need to be more sustainable in our activity, commercial or private. We need to think where does the oil and fragements of bitumen go in the storm water from our street run off.
The city sewage that is spilled into our waterways from time to time. The trash that our cities produce and discard and the nasty leaching of our city dumps and land fills. The industrial waste and nasties that sometimes come from industrial area's.
Yes and the farmers need to be to be more vigilent. But come on 96% of our rivers not fit to swim in.  I can think of 20 rivers around me. Everyone I wouldn't hesitate to swim in. Everyone well stocked with good healthy fish.
By the way who ever said N.Z was 100% pure, saying that is asking for trouble because no country is, not even the Antarctic.
The Brand is "100% pure N.Z" and yes that takes with it a reponsibility to be as pure as possible, better than we are now but get the Brand right.

a yawning gap has appeared between the actions of National and the clean and green rhetoric
Steady on, there isn't a country on the planet that doesn't talk it's own book and I hardly think we're the worst at it.
18th worst country
There are 193 countries in the UN so some perspective there.
walk away from Kyoto
Thank goodness common sense has returned.
emissions are among the highest in the world
Not by volume they're not.
nothing that a Government wanting to be returned in 2 years 
Ah, so nothing voters want then, perhaps the finger should be pointed at the cause then?
I am no fan of pollution in the traditional sense, ground/river/air but I am not afraid of farting cows or breathing out so am circumspect at this point about a "green high jack" that amounts to few real goals for more and more taxes, lost jobs and six small frogs to show for it.

Nice rebuttal Ralph. However I do feel that we kiwi's are just as bad polluters as the rest of the world (well, slightly less so) but there are just so few of us geographically that the country stays clean-ish and green-ish despite us, not because of us.

Secondly, as a rather poignant article recently in the Age about the last of a particular species of fruit bat on Christmas island pointed out - those 6 small frogs are important.

Well the only paragraph that seems to make any argument for the importance of the poor frog is this one (correct if I missed something, it was quick skim):
As with human rights, extinctions beg the question of where we draw the line. If we can stand by as a species of bat is snuffed out, then why not other species as well? Can we really expect poor Indian villagers to heed our pleas to conserve the tigers that menace their livestock if we do nothing to prevent the extinction of Australian species? As with the question of torture, to open the door to the practice of extinction is to contemplate the horrific becoming routine.
The arguments seeming to be the following:

  • Human's have rights so animal have rights.
  • It's about where we draw the line (not actually a justification in itself).
  • We look bad telling Indians how to live.
  • Extinction is a thing we practice (an inference).

I am not a believer that animals have the same intrinsic rights as people, so that ones out for me.
The second statement doesn't actually place any value on the where the line is.  Obviously any line has to placed somewhere but what if I place it where you would not?
We shouldn't make judgements bases on trying to save face with Indians, that's just pride.
Although we have come to dominate the planet extinctions took place before that was the case, therefore logic dictates we are only a contributing factor. That undermines the implied guilt argument.
If we believed Darwins survival of the fittest this wouldn't worry us in the slightest.

per capita we are amongst  the worst, and actually I think you probaly mean by land area not volume, air volume? volume of ppl? etc
Check the Green parties % of the vote, its up a bit.
"yawning gap" National have never wanted to know...a non-agenda item for them.
"common sense"?
if you mean ignore science, then I guess that means you go to a witch doctor and not a GP when you are unwell?
Or maybe the local barber for a tooth extraction?

I assume there are 175 countries better than us; not 175 worse. If so, assuming the scoring is somehow apples and apples, then it doesn't look a good score, no matter what perspective. Some of your other points I agree with. If the cows don't fart in NZ, they will probably fart somewhere else.
However water quality specifically, and to a slightly lesser extent, bio diversity just seem important. As I think you accept.
Noone, including the Nats, want to deliberately trash the place. But we need  to keep vigilant. And this paper from the business green group clearly needs a good look. 

Here's some reading for you Gareth. This is why the government is walking away from Kyoto but can hardly announce this to the shrinking hysterical constituency. 
Green growth has brought Spain to its knees. I doubt you are pushing for that scenario.
Agree with you on vandalism to our environment however and this must stop. Friends of mine have behind the scenes been battling exactly that in the Manawatu. What would you do if faced by this? 
Cue trolls.

Green growth in spain?  maybe check Denmark....
What laughable URLs.....
Trolls, you already lead.

I dont see NZ as the 18th worst for environmental damage.I wonder what criteria were applied ?
I can cite some terrible examples that must be ahead of us such as  Brazil, ( Amazon)  Russia,   India,  China , South Africa, ( open cast coal  and asbestos mining)  , Vietnam, Former East Germany, Egypt , Zambia, Turkey, Iran , Iraq, Nigeria( Delta)  , Angola, Madagascar ( Deforestation)  Zaire/ Congo,  many countries on the Mediteranean , Poland.
I have visited quite a few of these places and we are angels in comparison
Hell, even Australia and Canada do more damage than us

Down here in Canterbury National abolished Ecan elections because they threatened the appointed commissioners work on doubling or tripling Canterbury's irrigation capacity. This will turn Canterbury from mixed crop/sheep farming to the much more intensive dairy farming. There will be a huge increase in effluent and thus our waterways will suffer and potentially our acquifers too.
Central governments attitude to Christchurch and Canterbury has only focused on its agricultural potential. Christchurch could do so much more than this. We have some good electronics and software companies down here and with a bit of creative thinking we could have some green industries too.
I believe  we would be more successful if we had stronger regional government and were less reliant on the one eyed Wellington.

The problem of course is that this Government is so blindly committed to "growth".  Which to them, being the dimwits that they are, means do more of the same... hence they subsidise irrigation with this dumb idea to increase milk powder (price taker) export returns.
I'd rather they subsidised the upgrading of effluent systems on existing farms - but of course any form of "direct" subsidies are contrary to the same 'ol, same 'ol mantra that Mike Moore, Tim Groser and everyone else on the jet setting tikitour of int'l trade negotiations is spouting ad infinitum to deaf ears.  Meanwhile, back on the farm, new regulations mean farmers are staring down the barrel of more debt.  I truly believe National are trying to bankrupt the nation.
Time to start looking after our own industry - and leave it to other countries to look after theirs.  Free trade as an ideal died a long time ago - and trying to champion it the world over today is even more detrimental and meaningless no matter how many time JK shakes Obama's hand for the telly soundbite.
I CANNOT WAIT until the next election!!!!

I truly believe National are trying to bankrupt the nation.
Funny you should say that - my Father firmly believes a transworld organisation sent Key here to do just that.

Well, Iain Parker here said he had been seconded to the NY Fed while working for Merrill.
Even the least of the conspiracy theorists amongst us find it hard not to connect dots -particularly given the mounting evidence of his policy direction.  NZ is renown for its lack of checks on executive power.

And to fund our own bankrupcy - taxes at the pump need to keep rising, of course;

wow..."Asked whether the Government was punishing owners of fuel-efficient vehicles, Mr Key said: "These things are always a trade off.""
He has an ability to prove his "metal" when he opens his mouth doesnt he...
Bloody hell, is there no one fit to govern.....


....I think the problem with key and his ignoramise mates is that they mix with those who re-inforce their prehistoric concepts...most of them are closet (if not open) climate denyer's.  The billions being thrown at spreading tarmac a classic example of their inability to grasp what is actually happening to our world.
They are bereft of ideas and  have no thought beyond the finacial markets. key is a very ignorant and narrowly focused person.

I presume you wrote this on an import duty free computer, do you have a duty free phone and do you drive a duty free foreign car.  These are the benifits of trading with richer,  higher populated countries that can afford to develop these technologies. Lucky for us they want our milk etc in return.   To you want to go back to the horse and pigeon?

Firstly you start this with "Our 100% Pure image", Image is rhetoric and the reality is that we are not 100% pure and getting worse, I would have though you of all people would have worked out by now the seriousness of the disconnect between reality and bullsh*t  we are facing at an ever increasing severity and pace. 
Secondly if you have an "open doors" policy and a blind adherance to "growth is good" then all we will achieve by protecting NZ's environment is make it more valuable to those escapees from the industrial west who have pissed in their own corner and like the concept of retiring to a warm clean south seas isle.
If we are to subscribe to E.F Schumachers ideals then we better also put up the barriers to stop NZ from being sold from underneath us. 

Come on! The reason spain is in the poop is the flood of money that rushed in prior to 2008 that was all spent on an unsustainable  housing and consumption boom that crashed and scared all the offshore money away again,  leaving the country insolvent.

There's way more to it than that. Google this topic there's a ton of info available.
A Job Killer
Calzada, an economist, studied Spain's green technology program and found that each green job created in Spain cost Spanish taxpayers $770,000. Each Wind Industry job cost $1.3 million to create. 
"President Zapatero, for example, when he came in to power, said he knew, 'he knew' that solar energy was the future," Calzada said. "He 'knew' this, so he put all the public money and investment into this model."
But Calzada's study found that for every four jobs created by Spain's expensive green technology program, nine jobs were lost.
Electricity generated was so expensive that each "green" megawatt installed in the power grid destroyed five jobs elsewhere in the economy by raising business costs.
Like all European union members, Spain is mandated to produce 20 percent of its energy from “green” sources (Montana has a 15 percent mandate gratis Sen. Jon Tester). The good news is that Spain generated 23 percent of its electricity from wind and solar in 2010. Spain actually can generate half its peak energy needs with wind and solar. The bad news is that this capacity bankrupted Spain. Spain only needs 44 gigawatts of power, but theoretically can produce 99 gigawatts. Why not export the excess and make a profit? Well, the “capacity” to produce 99 gigawatts does not mean it will be produced when needed. Wind produces 40 percent of the time — often at night when there is no market. Solar is non-existent at night and disrupted by passing clouds. It is tough to sell a product when you cannot promise delivery. Spain subsidizes solar at 444 euros per megawatt while coal or gas fired generation sells for 39 euros per megawatt. Without a gun to their head who would buy the surplus electricity?
Two and a half years ago I travelled through Southern Spain on my way to Portugal. I went through massive wind farms. More than half the turbines had broken down and those near settlements closed down completely because of the serious effects they have on residents. And yes, a very useful wind was blowing.
The green movement in NZ if it gets its way will have a detrimental effect on the economy. Time for a reality check.

Its the duty of a Government to protect the long term well being of a Nation....its known as leadership.
One thing is for sure when we finally realise we have to move the dange is it will be too late to do very much....the result economically will be severe if not catastrophic.
Interesting that on the one hand you accept Peak Oil? yet on another reject anything that hints at AGW, yet here these overlap.
If you accept or understand peak oil then when someone says "'he knew' that solar energy was the future" then what he's saying to my mind is it is the only one possible future and its  based on he's trying to build resiliance for his nation.
Whatever you say about Muldoon and his think big, well he thought hydro and he got that right....Spain is what 40 years behind us?
If the Green movement gets anywhere its because a decent % of the ppl want it and not a few fractions of a % of the fringe with strnage outlooks who dont.
In terms of broken down, well maybe check Denmark and NZ for real data...and ultimately there is always some trial and error and risk in any undertaking.  Oh and Spain isnt renowned for its quality engineering....

Is Auckland 2012 equivalent to Spain 2007??? With Auckland flooded by Chinese money compared to Spain's British / European money flooding?

I wonder myself.....I wish we had some real data/info on this.
If its significant then what happens if like it came in, fast it rushes out fast(er)?  Is Auckalnd a stepping stone for chiniese illicit money? a laundering point?  Come in with suitcases of $ houses, in a few years sell them into legit bank accounts and transfer the money abroad?

"NZ is crying out"  -    yeah,  give us JOBS  !!
or shall we follow Greenie Gareth ,  and filled with guilt and shame at our terrible Karbin Fooprint  tax ourselves back to the stone age and ban all irrigation and dairying.  Hah - that will show the world    (and not make a scrap of difference to world climate )

Thats like saying the rest of the world is amoral and like lemmings are gong to jump off a cliff, so cool lets do that as well.
Growth and jobs consume energy and we are past having more of that last one, ergo we cant have more growth and jobs, ergo we have too many ppl.
National are busily making new roads when in fact they will be empty inside 2 decades...but they cant admit that...because if they do their entire falshood crashes around them.....ditto Labour.
So its lemming time....

Im not pressing BUY NOW  on that argument sorry

...herein lies the reason that little is happening...everyone expects someone else to do it ...cause if only we do it it won't make a difference...every State in the US could make such a claim.
Good one goonAs

ratty -  I hope you and steven stand for parlimint on the ticket "NZ can save the world"
or even better , stick to Frogblog with your other loonie green mates

Well NZ had its nuclear free policy....unique it seems.....and workable.
Stand for Parliment, well the Green party grew its % to 11%  kind of says how more ppl are voting. On an equally bright note the Libertarians grow their vote from 850 to 1100 votes nation wide.....a great result for all of us that one.
Some ppl joined Hitler/Mao/Stalin (pick your monster), others did nothing against, some opposed.  It seems JK and some such as yourself are in the do nothing category...short termism....profit for
Guess thats the strength of democracy, probably its undoing as well.

...ha one has ever called me a greenie before!  I like to think I'm informed, aware and , educated.  I though John Key was going to be an excellent PM - by the day I become more weary of him.  He and his kin are ignorant.  You need to open your mind a little. 
Some of the greens may be looney, however one must question who is looney when we continue to lay acres of  bitumen when vehicle use will decline very abruptly over the next few years. 

politics is the art of the Possible  - I mean JK to be fair has had to deal with the GFC,Pike River,Chch earthquake etc to deal with so aint doing too bad
" vehicle use will decline very abruptly over the next few years. "    wow ,some pretty big calls there , sir you really think so.  I put it to you....its a big call to say they won't decline. It's already started..
NZTA’s latest report on state highway traffic shows that volumes were down 1.2% in 2011.  And if you look further back you can see that total vehicle volumes on the state highway network have been static since around 2004.  In the same period, New Zealand’s population has increased by approximately 7%,
..every ridden a bus?  They were pretty empty where I live 5 yrs or so ago.  Now it's standing room only.
So if it's static since 2004...why are we building even more.  Big call to say we will need them.
Big call to say the road won't be

Look at tthe numbers across the developed world for car kms / petrol use. It is decling as petrol/oil's costs hit the motorist. This is well commented on in many articles and academic papers as a fact....
Then take Peak oil as a fact and ever increasing competition via the price mechanism for whats left.  As Jeff Rubin says many motorists will be taking the exit ramp in the next decade.
When JK says ppl can repalce cars as they can afford it....what he is really doing is instigating a regressive tax to establish roads what an ever declining top few % will ever use for private transport...
For myself my car is 1996, I expect it will last 5 years more....I dont think I will ever replace it, with a car at least....150cc bike, yes...public transport, yes.  Replacement cars like the Pruis are 3 times the cost and last 1/2 as long....that cost means that many will not have a car.

You're 'on the money' when it comes to Don Key. He was a fresh look at politics at first, but his intellectual capacity shone through soon enough for me to realize he really was just a 'Trader" dressed up as a politician. DK (Donkey Kong!) could have done better! I hope he's out NY.

So what will we be using for transport in the future.  I know,  beam me up Scottie.

If you want "talent" to live here then promote urban development policies that take people's homes to New Zealand's most beautiful locations.
No-one gives a toss about this clean green stuff, in terms of where they want to live. They care about the personal experience that they can achieve here, and the cost of it. This is the real world - not the eco-evangelical world.

I despair

You know it's possible to have your cake and eat it too.

Reality at last.  I was beginning to think this was a greenie only web site.  If these Greenie ideas are so great,  why have none of them started up in business,  surely they would make a packet.

There is little point is throwing reason or humility beneath the rampaging feet of arrogance.