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Speech for Environmental Defence Society Conference

6th August, 2012

Smart, green economics starts with the understanding that our economy relies on our environment. No environment, no economy.

The Green Party, like this conference today, are focused on challenging the current thinking about our primary sector.

We are calling for greater economic diversity and a new, low carbon economy. One that will change our current cornerstone industries to acknowledge the 'no environment, no economy' reality.

The Green Party offers a serious alternative, one that has a smart, green economic plan that is job rich, innovative, environmentally sustainable, New Zealand-owned and long-term.

Tourism and agriculture employ 92,000 and 97,000 people, respectively. These industries bring in nearly $40 billion in export revenue and depend on our clean, green brand. So do our fisheries and forestry industries. Along with the jobs and income they provide, these industries feed, clothe and house people throughout the world. We rely on the environment for our most fundamental needs and so we can't have economic growth at its expense through growing resource use and pollution.

Massey University's Riddet National Centre of Research Excellence has just released its report 'A Call to Arms' that says that New Zealand could triple our export earnings from agriculture - but only if we become world leaders in sustainability and product integrity.

The report emphasises that our agricultural exports rely on New Zealand's clean and green reputation. That this gives us a huge advantage in international markets, an advantage that will be lost if we don't genuinely improve our environmental performance.

The UK's biggest business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry, has also just released research showing the billions that green growth can add to the economy.

This green growth must be linked to shrinking resource use and shrinking pollution. We can't be making a choice between going green or going for growth.

Our current Government certainly isn't going green. Its dirty, grey plan is jobs poor, uninspired, environmentally destructive, foreign-owned and short-term.

The Government have been trying to position themselves as strong economic managers. But they have missed the boat on the basic fact of no environment, no economy.

We hear a lot of excuses from the Government about difficult financial times - but what has been National's brilliant economic response?

Borrow $2 billion to give the rich tax cuts, borrow another $1.5 billion to subsidise polluters and splurge $12 billion on economically irrational motorways.

They have announced that $400 million from the Future Investment Fund, generated by the partial sale of New Zealand state-owned energy companies, will be used to support irrigation developments.

Subsidising irrigation will lead to increasing land use intensification - putting more animals and fertiliser on our land - and the science is absolutely clear that this leads to increased water pollution. It's an investment in the degradation of our rivers and lakes. Which the taxpayer will end up having to pay for again through waterway clean-ups.

They broke the already weak Emissions Trading Scheme so that we are subsidising pollution.

They have a fossil fuel agenda - Dig it, drill it, mine it is their mantra. And this is despite the fact that mining employs just five and a half thousand people. Under their watch unemployment has increased by 62,000. There's a lot of mines to dig to make up that number.

They have made cuts to conservation, reducing DoC's ability to advocate for the environment.

And, they are planning to 'streamline' and 'simplify' the RMA - which will result in further weakening of this crucial piece of legislation

After having no success, and bereft of ideas, National is going to sell our assets to try patch up its botched economic management. Its plan B is to deface our national parks and drill our oceans for fossil fuels.

The Green Party's plan A is to put in place the policy settings that will help us maintain a truly 100% pure image, that helps our farmers stay as world leaders in agriculture by using cutting edge technology to produce food and fibre. And to have the support in place to develop these technologies and export them to the world.

The smart thing to do is to invest in these jobs-rich industries, rather than damage our brand to create a brief fossil fuel bonanza for foreign-owned companies. That's why the Greens back clean, sustainable primary industries, and why we back high-value, environmentally friendly tourism.

We'll put policies into place that make a substantive change so that we can be sure to maintain our 100% pure image and be world leaders in exporting goods, technology, and ideas that reflect that around the world.

Our spokesperson for Agriculture is, as we speak, touring New Zealand with two Australian farmers to talk to farming communities about making the most of New Zealand's clean green image. These two farmers have come to talk about the lessons they have learned from having genetically engineered crops in their communities and the impact this has had on their bottom lines.

We will fund research, education and support to transition away from industrialised, fossil fuel supported agriculture. This will provide jobs and grow New Zealand's knowledge economy with spin offs to the public and business sectors.

We will limit urban sprawl to prevent the loss of prime productive land.

We will develop environmental impact assessments and best practice for fishing methods and set national standards under the RMA to guide regional councils on marine farms.

We will put an emphasis back onto biosecurity, so that we can protect our primary production sector and our vulnerable native flora and fauna from pest and disease incursions.

We will develop and maintain a viable, innovative, and environmentally and socially responsible commercial forestry sector.

It's time to promote and encourage diversity in our primary production to stop us having to rely on a few cash cows of industry, and instead build a resilient and strong primary production sector that provides the world with truly good food.

If we stick with National's dirty, grey economics, we will keep going backwards. If we want more jobs in New Zealand, we need smart, green economics.

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