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Green Party In Economic Backwoods

22 July 2002

Green Party In Economic Backwoods

The Green Party does not agree that economic growth is a precursor for New Zealand's social wellbeing and effective environment management. This is a key finding of an analysis of political parties' economic growth policies by Business New Zealand, as reported in the Business Herald of Monday 22 July. The Greens were the only party to give a "No" answer to this question, rated the most important by 97 per cent of the companies surveyed.

In a comment today, Terry Dunleavy, national convener of Bluegreens who tender independent policy advice to the National Party, said: "The backwards and backwoods views of the Greens on economic growth demonstrates that they haven't a clue on the essentials needed for environmental protection and enhancement. It's not clear whether the Greens' negative answer to Business New Zealand's survey was because they refuse to accept the need for economic growth, or they fail to understand why it is necessary.

"The Greens seem to believe that New Zealand is some kind of fantasyland, in which the environment will look after itself, and problems will disappear if the Greens wish hard enough.

"The reality is that it takes resources, of money for materials and money for salaries, to overcome problems of pollution, waste and pest destruction of our forests and unique native flora and fauna," said Mr Dunleavy.

He contrasted the Greens position with the opposite view expressed by environmentalist Guy Salmon, a member of Bluegreens, who is a list candidate for the National Party. "Guy has made it clear in speeches around the country that one of the main reasons he chose to seek nomination for National was because it was the party which had the strongest realisation of the need for economic growth to meet the costs of environmental protection and enhancement.

"Guy points to our economic failure as the crucial problem underpinning our failure to achieve a wide range of environmental and other societal objectives. He refers to a paper prepared for the Knowledge Wave conference that compared New Zealand's economic performance during the decade of the 90s with the performance of several other small countries. The paper also projects what the situation will look like in another decade, if each of those country's growth rates during the 90s is projected forward to 2010.

"The overall picture is one of the world accelerating past New Zealand. We're all aware of the striking performance during the 1990s of economies like Finland, Singapore and Ireland. But even economies that we thought of as Third World or developing economies are catching up and - if these trends continue - could well overtake us by 2010: places like Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Slovenia and Uruguay.

"If these trends continue, New Zealand is in danger of sliding off the register of First World countries altogether. That would have vast social consequences, and damaging environmental consequences too. New Zealanders haven't even thought about what it would be like - but the events in Argentina, another once-wealthy country that has been in a long decline, give us an insight.

"Guy also quotes from a paper by Struan Little, an economist at the Treasury, who has made an interesting comparative study of eight small economies. It compares us with small countries, peripheral to major markets, and with important agriculture sectors. They are all democracies with well-educated populations. Four of them are economies which, like New Zealand, have persistently struggled with their economic performance: Uruguay, Tasmania, the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, and Switzerland. Switzerland is the only economy in the OECD that did worse than New Zealand during the last decade. The other four economies in Little's study are turnaround economies, economies that earlier faced difficulties but have responded positively, to be excellent performers - Iceland, Ireland, Denmark and Finland.

"The critical ingredient which explains the difference, Little argues, is the ability to form a social consensus. The intense division which New Zealand is experiencing in this latter area at present is highlighted by the case of Dr Margy Gilpin, whose GM potato trials at Lincoln University were destroyed by green activists.

"In essence, what Little is saying in his paper is that the bogged-down economies are divided societies with no strong, shared social vision."

Mr Dunleavy said that Guy Salmon makes the cogent argument that the poorest countries in the world are also the least responsible in environmental protection and conservation - because they need to raid their natural resources in an unsustainable way simply to survive. "By contrast, the countries with the highest levels of environmental awareness and planned protection are those who are sufficiently well developed economically to be able to afford the inevitable costs.

"The Greens preach sustainability, but they haven't a clue about what it takes for a community and a nation to achieve sustainable prosperity. That why Bluegreens urge every New Zealander to consign the Green Party to the backwoods where they belong," Mr Dunleavy concluded.

More on www.bluegreens.org.nz


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