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A report on green growth opportunities shows New Zealand has the potential to generate billions of dollars in high-value economic growth, while also improving the country's environmental performance, Pure Advantage chairman Rob Morrison believes.
The report, commissioned by Pure Advantage - a not-for-profit entity comprised of business leaders, including Sir George Fistonich, Rob Fyfe and Sir Stephen Tindall - and the New Zealand Green Growth Research Trust, identified 21 ways New Zealand could capitalise on a global shift to greener growth.
Prepared by economics consultancy Vivid Economics, of London, in conjunction with the University of Auckland Business School, it included specific recommendations for forestry, electricity, transport, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
Pure Advantage intended using the macroeconomic report as a basis to establish, in consultation with industry, seven industry-specific green growth programmes, Mr Morrison said.
Those were retrofitting an efficient building environment; creating a significant geothermal export industry; investing in sustainable and efficient agricultural technologies; installing bio-energy and waste-to-energy infrastructure; installing the "building blocks" of a smart grid; establishing a woody mass biofuel and bio-products industry; and establishing a world-class biodiversity-driven ecotourism and conservation education programme.
There was "much to like" in the report, Dr Eric Crampton, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury, said.
It rightly recommended New Zealand move towards more efficient pricing and trading of water resources.
Similarly, the opportunity for New Zealand to make a global difference by directing research and development resources towards lower-emission pastoral systems was recognised.
Streamlining regulations to let entrepreneurs take advantage of New Zealand's natural potential comparative advantages in aquaculture was also worthwhile, he said.
However, Dr Crampton was worried some of the identified opportunities might impose costs "well in excess" of potential benefits.
Dr Roger Young, a freshwater ecologist at the Cawthron Institute, said the report was a useful analysis of the opportunities for New Zealand.
"There is clearly opportunity to improve the allocation of water to more valuable and efficient uses, while taking the needs of the environment into account.
"Policy reviews in Canterbury, Horizons, Otago and Hawkes Bay will help to clarify what water is available for allocation and how water storage may help to address the water allocation issue."
National initiatives such as the Land and Water Forum and the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management would also be helpful. However, he was not convinced about the role of water pricing in improving the efficiency of its use, as suggested in the report.
Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman described it as a "smart, win-win" economic plan that the Government should be supporting.
What was needed now was a "whole-of-country" approach to developing an investment case for the various sectors identified by Pure Advantage as offering the best returns on investment - the energy, agriculture, biotechnology, transport, construction, forestry and energy efficiency sectors, he said.
The Sustainable Business Council agreed with some of the opportunities identified. It was working with its members on a number of those areas already, executive director Penny Nelson said.