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Quality of life and growth go hand in hand

6 October 2006

Media Release

National is right to say quality of life and economic growth go hand in hand – and 70% of New Zealanders agree with them

The Business Council's Chief Executive, Peter Neilson, welcomes the proposals defined in National's Bluegreen vision for New Zealand launched today and its ambitious aim to solve all New Zealand's domestic environmental problems within one generation.

"It's time we had a real political consensus from the centre right and the centre left that economic growth and high environmental standards go hand in hand because that's what the majority of New Zealanders want. Our research shows that 70% of people equate the environment and economic prosperity with an improved quality of life so this is a real area of competition for the next election, as is happening for example in UK politics."

"But New Zealanders want this to be more than just about winning votes and we welcome National's support for a cross party agreement on climate change because the policies needed to manage the potentially massive risks and opportunities posed by climate change over the next 30 to 50 years demand an approach which goes beyond the three year election cycle."

"It is refreshing to hear National support a new Kyoto type treaty which brings in all of the major emitting countries. This will help stop climate change being a political hot potato that no-one wants to handle. We know from our surveys that people in general think the Government's management of climate change has been poor to mediocre. This is exacerbated because people get turned off by the debate about Kyoto and the science around global warming. What they want is a positive practical approach which shows what they can do here and now as opposed to worrying about how to impact a global issue when, after all, we only contribute 0.2% of global emissions."

"I am encouraged by National's support for practical measures which the Business Council has been advocating for some time such as updating the building code to incorporate sustainable building practices and technologies and providing incentives for more fuel efficient imported vehicles."

Mr Neilson says polling shows that these types of policies will win widespread support among New Zealanders. The Business Council advocates the introduction of cash grants of up to $3000 to buyers of fuel efficient, low emission cars. This would see 430,000 low emission vehicles enter the highly aged national fleet over five years – and save the country millions in health and emission bills. New Zealanders don't like being told what to do, but if asked politely will help out with the problem. Environmental policy needs to be about more carrot and less stick.

Three years ago the Business Council published its paper How economic incentives motivate sustainable development which recommends tradable water permits, emission charges, air quality standards and a 'polluter pays' waste strategy.

"It will be far better to promote sustainable policies like these here, many of which have lower emissions, than send up to half a billion dollars off shore under the Kyoto agreement if New Zealand does not meet its emissions reduction targets between 2008 and 2012."

"And governments can and should lead by example with a sustainable procurement policy which prefers for example energy efficient appliances, Environmental Choice and Forest Stewardship Council products. Why should businesses invest in these if local and national government purchasing aren't doing it? By putting sustainability at the heart of what we manufacture, sell and buy, we will protect our country's unique selling point – clean green New Zealand."

"National should be applauded for this far reaching review document which will hopefully pave the way to a cross party and grown up approach to policy making. We need to move on from using the environment as a point of difference because it's one of the things all of us value. It is good to note too that this document recognizes the importance of the RMA as a vital piece of environmental legislation which needs amending to improve the speed and clarity of decision making and we are firm believers that a late consent should be a free consent.

"When harming the environment costs more than it does to protect it, when there is a financial penalty on inefficient administration, we will start to see the New Zealand which the vast majority of us want."

Peter Neilson will address the Bluegreens Annual Forum on 7th October.


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