28 Jul 2009

New Zealand trails on green initiatives

9:28 pm on 28 July 2009

Britain has announced a plan to create 400,000 jobs by generating a third of all of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020.

It follows massive green-based stimulus packages announced by China and the United States.

But business groups are worried New Zealand is not following the "green" lead because of a lack of government policy and spending.

That could mean the country lags behind its rivals when the economy recovers.

Business commentator Rod Oram says there is a strong and growing belief that sustainable businesses will be vital to creating jobs and boosting spending when the economy recovers.

Mr Oram says the stimulus packages governments worldwide are announcing are characteristically green, and businesses are also focusing on renewable energy and resource efficiency.

Mr Oram says only a small proportion of New Zealand's budget is being spent on green initiatives, compared with the likes of South Korea, which is spending 81% of its budget on green programmes.

But business are getting the ball rolling here.

Peter Neilson, chief executive of the Council for Sustainable Development, says New Zealand is making some progress on the green front with initiatives such as the $323 million being spent on home insulation. But Mr Neilson says development in other areas is being stalled.

Peter Atkinson, who works on the Employers and Manufacturers Association's sustainable business programme, says it can be a tough decision for businesses to go down the green path, but there are plenty of reasons to do so.

Mr Atkinson says there are businesses choosing green to enhance their company profile or for ideological reasons.

He advises businesses to take a broad approach to environmental management so that if policies change between governments, they still have plenty of bases covered.