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Goff: Enviro-Energy clean technology process

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Trade

20 June 2008

Speech Notes

Speech at launch of Enviro-Energy clean technology process

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak at the launch of a very promising new environmental technology.

New Zealand enjoys a priceless reputation as a nation of great beauty, which is clean and green and, as our tourism promotions proclaim, 100% Pure.

This reputation is a source of great pride to us, but it is critical that it is maintained for our present and future wellbeing. Our dependence on tourists demands it – and in an era of global warming, carbon-footprints, eco-labelling and false marketing campaigns such as food miles, so do our huge agricultural export industries.

Our need to maintain and enhance this reputation has also, along with our comprehensive environmental guidelines within the Resource Management Act, led to our environmental engineering sector developing considerable expertise in environmental protection and management.

We have seen a strong New Zealand focus on design and technology to create world-class products and services – particularly in the field of clean technology. This is technology that uses renewable energy sources and that cuts or eliminates emissions and wastes.

Enviro-Energy is a prime example. The company has spent many years in this field. Rob and his colleagues first came up with ideas to safely get rid of sewage sludge about 16 years ago – providing an alternative to trucking and the dumping of digested sludge at landfill or on agricultural land.

These practices are coming under tighter control due to health and environmental concerns. This means that the kind of alternative disposal option this technology provides becomes ever more compelling.

Not only can waste water be disposed of in a clean and effective way, the process to do this is energy efficient, transport costs of trucking material to landfills are removed and a usable product is created at the end.

As part of the development phase, Enviro-Energy set about testing its concepts in laboratories, before approaching municipal authorities to gauge interest in their ideas.

They were also keen to knock on doors overseas in the early days – a great example of a company thinking globally from day one, and a move strongly encouraged by this government.

About four years ago – after some interest from overseas authorities – Enviro-Energy put its thinking into practice, building a prototype which has since been tested here at the Hamilton waste water treatment plant.

While Enviro-Energy has developed this intellectual property and used its business nous to bring it to commercialisation stage, I am proud of the assistance the Government has been able to provide.

It is an excellent example of the private and public sectors working together for the common goal of growing New Zealand’s prosperity.

For a small country like ours this approach is essential for us to compete with much bigger players on the world stage.

Assistance from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology helped the company with its research and development, while New Zealand Trade and Enterprise also assisted with intellectual property protection.

With New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s assistance, Enviro-Energy also participated in the Global Access Programme at UCLA in California, where MBA students completed extensive market research and competitive analysis for the company.

This was used to develop a comprehensive business strategy and plan to take the fledging technology to the world.

The company has since continued to explore overseas markets and their demand for its technology – with market development funding from Zealand Trade and Enterprise also helping it get in front of the right people overseas.

Enviro-Energy last year travelled to Vancouver and Seattle as part of a trade mission led by myself and with about 20 other representatives from leading New Zealand specialised manufacturing companies, including businesses involved in aviation, electronics, engineering, marine and plastics.

It is clear that there is big potential for niche New Zealand exporters of goods and services in the Pacific north-west and California, within the wider relationship that we have with our key economic partners the United States and Canada.

Commercial opportunities for New Zealand companies to contribute solutions to achieve environmental sustainability are growing fast and I know Enviro-Energy had some useful discussions with authorities in North America when it was there last year.

Today is an important milestone for the company. It has proven that the technology, in particular its flash drying system, has potential – and is now seeking customers and partners here and overseas. This plant will serve as an extremely useful reference site in that quest.

Rob explained the intricacies of the process earlier. But it is worth re-stating that it not only gets rid of sewage sludge by turning it into an inert sandy ash – just 7 per cent of the original wet volume processed – but it does so using minimal external energy.

Not only is it dealing with the problem of waste disposal, but it is doing so in a sustainable fashion. I understand the technology could be the first of its kind in the world.

Enviro-Energy’s experiences show that the future for New Zealand’s clean technology industry looks very bright, as competition for resources and awareness of the need to safeguard the environment grows internationally.

As well as North America showing strong interest in New Zealand technology in this area, China, among other markets, is also looking closely at expertise developed by Kiwi companies in the field of environmental technology.

On a trade mission to Beijing in April, when New Zealand signed a Free Trade Agreement with China, a number of Kiwi technology companies were well received by potential Chinese customers – who are well aware of the growing need to manage pollution in that fast-evolving country.

Large markets do exist for nimble and innovative companies that can identify niche opportunities and have the drive and know-how to reliably provide these kinds of products and services.

The Government is keen to back good ideas. As I mentioned before we are a small country and must work smart to succeed. A New Zealand Inc approach makes very good sense.

Government agencies like NZTE can provide companies and entrepreneurs with funding and assistance in technical, business and marketing areas, and provide overseas contacts and support, though such initiatives as its Beachheads programmes.

Last year, around 300 companies received NZTE assistance to develop their capability – including mentoring and technical advice. Likewise, NZTE funding to assist entry into overseas markets has jumped from $6 million three years ago to $54 million this financial year.

This increase means that more than 500 New Zealand companies gained approval for this assistance last year.

This funding and assistance for companies across all sectors of the economy is an investment in New Zealand’s future.

It is encouraging that many New Zealand businesses and industry sectors are now seeing the benefits of having sustainability at their core.

They too have concluded that the risks of doing nothing are too great, while the opportunities from taking leadership and spotting gaps in the market are substantial.

I congratulate Enviro-Energy on getting to this point – I know it has been a long journey, but your persistence and belief in your product is an example to all New Zealand businesses.

I wish you well with the next stage – signing up customers – and will watch your progress with interest.

Thank you.


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