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We are currently transforming our website to become an information platform to champion action across business sectors and transform our communications strategy. When launched, this platform will serve to advance debate and further articulate our belief that by enhancing New Zealand’s natural advantages we will improve our competitive positioning in the global shift to green growth.

Pure Advantage online will comprise both original and shared content from businesses and policy makers, similar mindset groups, think-tanks and commercial news outlets; and make more visible the work that is happening both in New Zealand and internationally.

We cordially invite you to take part as a contributor – we would love to hear your story.

We look forward to your opinion and the sharing of good ideas.


Simon Millar | CEO

Auckland: 11 November 2013

Pure Advantage today announced that the first two of its seven green growth work streams are now underway, backed by major financial institution Kiwibank and Z Energy, New Zealand’s largest retail fuel supplier.

Duncan Stewart, Pure Advantage CEO says the primary focus of the green growth work streams is to produce successful commercial strategies and deliver specific projects.

“Pure Advantage is pleased to be working together with Kiwibank and Z Energy who are taking a demonstrable leadership position on these green growth initiatives in New Zealand.”

“We have the support of fantastic corporate leaders and this will help to accelerate green growth outcomes across all of the seven green growth work streams. The work streams are action-orientated and will deliver positive innovation to the marketplace, because this is what is needed to bring change,” says Stewart.

Stewart adds that Kiwibank leads the ‘Home Advantage’ initiative co-participants including Beacon Pathway, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, Hobsonville Land Co., Auckland Council and the Productivity Partnership.

“Home Advantage is focussed on delivering affordable, sustainable housing to the New Zealand market. The Home Advantage group is identifying specific activities that will help to establish a manufacturing capability for sustainable homes in the building industry. New Zealanders will benefit from warm and dry homes through improved cost and health outcomes.

Biofuel & Bio-product Advantage, led by recently listed Z Energy, has brought together a cross-sector group. The group is establishing a national strategy for the deployment of low-carbon drop-in transport biofuel, manufactured in conjunction with other high value bio-products made from plantation forestry woody mass.

“Now is the time for the private and public sectors to seize upon New Zealand’s key green growth opportunities that Pure Advantage identified through our Macroeconomic Review in 2012* and make these initiatives successful, practical realities.”

Stewart says that further announcements regarding the remaining green growth working groups will be made in the coming months as details are confirmed with other major corporate partners.
“We are well progressed with the Waste-to-Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Advantage work streams. The positive response from major New Zealand corporates has been very encouraging – there is a genuine commitment to develop practical, meaningful green growth strategies for New Zealand.”


* The Report was prepared in conjunction with the UK’s Vivid Economics and the University of Auckland Business School. The Macroeconomic Report can be viewed and downloaded at

Matt Stewart interviews some of the characters involved in developing, maintaining and debating New Zealand’s 100% Pure positioning, as he takes a look at Prime Minister John Key’s comparison of New Zealand’s global “100% Pure” tourism marketing campaign to a fast food ad.

“It’s like saying ‘McDonald’s, I’m lovin’ it’ – I’m not sure every moment that someone’s eating McDonald’s, they’re loving it . . . it’s the same thing with 100% Pure,” said the Prime Minister. “It’s got to be taken with a bit of a pinch of salt.”

As Stewart notes in 100% Pure Fantasy? Living up to our brand:

“In 2009, British environment writer Fred Pearce, writing in The Guardian, gave his “prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community” to New Zealand, accusing this country of a “greenwash” for trading on an increasingly shaky notion of eco- credibility.

“In the latest stoush over the accuracy of 100% Pure, Dr Joy was pounced on by Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, who called his comments “deeply unhelpful”.

“In an email to Dr Joy titled “Ego Trip” (later leaked by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman), backroom government lobbyist Mark Unsworth labelled the environmental science lecturer a “traitor”, accusing him of sabotaging the tourism industry and national economy by airing the country’s dirty laundry in the international media.

“But the science behind Dr Joy’s statements seems to stack up – we are slipping.”

The full story features commentary from:

  • Rob Morrison, Chairman of green business lobby group Pure Advantage
  • Massey University freshwater ecologist Dr Mike Joy
  • Chief executive, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne (and former Wellington ad-man) Peter Biggs
  • Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden

Read the full story: 100% Pure Fantasy? Living up to our brand

Rod Oram asserts “two groundbreaking green initiatives risk being watered down by the Government”, in his Sunday Star-Times column from 25 November 2012 – and states that Pure Advantage and the Land and Water Forum offer New Zealand ways to break two of our worst economic development habits.

Read the column as a PDF

Rod Oram looks at green growth and New Zealand’s not-so-green image portrayed in a New York Times newspaper story, in Business with Rod Oram on Radio New Zealand’s Nine To Noon with Kathryn Ryan:

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The Key Government’s policies are primitive and shameless, says Rod Oram in his Sunday Star-Times column.

Rod Oram portrait

“Business in New Zealand should be alarmed”, says Rod Oram in critiquing the Key government’s growth and environmental policies as “primitive and shameless.”

THE KEY Government’s economic strategy is delivering two deeply damaging outcomes – weak growth and environmental degradation.

Blaming the global financial crisis for slowing growth and rising unemployment, the Government pushes its strategy ever harder, blind to the realities.

The truth is our exports are growing more slowly than our major markets overseas; and the global financial system is stable and offering very low interest rates. So our problems are here, not out there. This is an economy deeply constrained by physical and financial limits. Our households, still among the most indebted in the OECD, are rightly saving more and consuming less. All our major exporters can grow volume only slowly, and value barely at all.

Two charts in the Reserve Bank’s current forecasts tell the story. Potential growth, the rate at which the economy can grow without causing inflation, is bumping along barely above 1 per cent: and business investment is seriously anaemic.

The government believes the constraints are physical. Its solution is to drive hard to produce more of everything at lower cost – education, skills training, resource consents, water, milk, minerals and oil to name a few.

But you can only push efficiency so far. At some point you begin to undermine the very activity you are trying to support; and inevitably you run into physical constraints.

For example, the Government has set a goal of trebling the value of food and beverage exports by 2025. But you won’t find a single thoughtful farmer or industry leader who believes that’s achievable. Perhaps a doubling might be. But that would mean at least a 75 per cent increase in the number of cows, which would do massive damage to the environment.

The Government reckons it knows better. Thanks to its disdain for environmental disciplines, it is weakening them fast so we can farm, build, and extract more and more regardless of the cost. For example, the Government has just admitted, thanks to pressure from the Greens, that it has dropped its once-every-five-years State of the Environment Report

Over the years, the OECD has strongly criticised the reports for being riddled with incomplete and inconsistent data. But they were the best measures we had. They told a dismal picture of declining water quality and other environmental degradation.

The Government’s solution is not to fix the problems or even the reporting but to cover them up. It is replacing the report with ad hoc, piecemeal “report cards”.

Likewise it is massively cutting the number of water quality measurement stations in our rivers and it is planning to introduce cost-benefit analysis into RMA consents for nutrient loading of rivers. Farmers will be able to degrade the rivers if they can show the “economic” benefit.

But that’s a minor deceit compared with the outrageous one the Government is trying on climate change. It says New Zealand would not make a binding commitment to greenhouse gas reductions under the next phase of the Kyoto protocol. Instead, the Government will make a voluntary one under the United Nations’ climate change convention.

The Government argues that Kyoto is dead so it makes more sense for us to align with countries outside the protocol – which happen to be heavy emitters with no governmental commitment to tackling climate change such as the US, Russia, Canada and Japan.

Everything about this new stand by our government is wrong and dangerous. First, NZ has a long history of playing a constructive role in the very hard work of building global legal frameworks on the likes of trade. In fact, the Key Government is promoting Tim Groser, the climate change negotiations minister, as next director-general of the World Trade Organisation. Ditching Kyoto makes a mockery of his already tenuous claim to the job.

Second, the Government argues that it is only refusing to join Kyoto’s second commitment period. It will remain a signatory to the protocol and broadly use the rules to make NZ’s non-binding commitment at the UN. It still expects to have a seat at the Kyoto negotiating table.

But the committed countries doing the heavy lifting in Kyoto, such as the EU members and Australia, won’t let shirkers like us benefit. This will be immensely damaging in practical and reputational terms for us, a country that sells itself on its environmental responsibility.

Third, the Government says it will come up sometime next year with a voluntary emissions reduction target for 2020. We are the only developed country without a concrete one. We are the only one to make its offer conditional on other countries acting. The Key Government has already shown its true agenda on this. In March 2011, it gazetted in parliament an emissions reduction target of 50 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Yet the Government’s own review of the emissions trading scheme last year showed that on policies and ETS rules then in place, our emissions would be higher in 2050, not 50 per cent lower than 1990.

And the Government rolls shamelessly on. Since then, it has gutted the ETS (including formal reviews like last year’s) and is working on doing the same with the RMA, the Local Government Act and oceans regulation to ensure that sound environmental disciplines are no bar to low-value, damaging growth.

Business in New Zealand should be alarmed. The global economy is shifting dramatically to low-carbon, renewable energy, resource efficiency and the cornucopia of technology, products and services those inspire.

Thankfully, our best business leaders are worried, and are responding constructively.

Pure Advantage, the research group created to analyse the issues, has just delivered its latest report. Available at, it identifies substantial green growth opportunities in our existing sectors.

They know business has to lead because government is such a shambles. For example, to invest with confidence they need long-term targets and policies on climate change. At the last two elections, the Key Government promised alignment with Australia’s policies, an effective price on carbon and policy certainty.

But in recent weeks the government has reneged on all three. Is this the folly of an incompetent government? Or the agenda of an unprincipled one?

Increasingly the Key government is showing signs of both fallings.


A version of this article appeared in print on November 17, 2012, in The International Herald Tribune. Read the full article in the New York Times.

The scene is set: a giant countdown clock, a 1,500-foot red carpet and assurances from the New Zealand government’s tourism arm that the South Pacific nation will once again become the real Middle Earth.

As the Wellington premiere of “The Hobbit” approaches, New Zealand’s picturesque landscapes are set to take center stage once again. Ten years ago, the breathtaking vistas featured in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy were at the heart of a tourism campaign that helped jump-start a multibillion-dollar international travel industry and a worldwide image of the country’s clean, green living. It was what Tourism New Zealand, the country’s tourism agency, called “100% pure” New Zealand.

But while the spectacular and seemingly untarnished natural backdrops, stunning waterscapes and snow-tipped mountains might look world-class on film, critics say the realm New Zealand’s marketers have presented is as fantastical as dragons and wizards.

“There are almost two worlds in New Zealand,” said Mike Joy, a senior lecturer in environmental science at Massey University in Palmerston North. “There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality.”

The clean and green image has long been promoted by the isolated country in its striving to compete in world markets. But an an international study in the journal PLoS One measuring countries’ loss of native vegetation, native habitat, number of endangered species and water quality showed that per capita, New Zealand was 18th worst out of 189 nations when it came to preserving its natural surroundings.

Dr. Joy said that for a country purporting to be so pure, New Zealand seemed to be failing by many international environmental benchmarks.

Last month, the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment released a survey showing that more than half of the country’s freshwater recreational sites were unsafe to swim in. Fecal contamination of waterways, caused largely by dairy farming — the source of 13.9 billion New Zealand dollars, or $10 billion, in annual exports, nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s total — was widespread.

The survey showed that people who swam in those rivers were at a high risk of illness, including serious diseases like giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis and campylobacteriosis. The waterways were the cause of 18,000 to 34,000 cases of waterborne disease each year.

Eugenie Sage, a member of the New Zealand Parliament who is environment spokeswoman for the Green Party, said the results belied the “100% pure” marketing image.

“We promote our country as 100 percent pure and 100 percent Middle Earth,” she told Parliament in October. “But to swim in our rivers, which is the birthright of Kiwi kids — you cannot do it in the majority of the rivers that the Ministry for the Environment monitored.”

Before the Nov. 28 release of the first of three “Hobbit” films by Mr. Jackson — the movies are based on a book by J.R.R. Tolkien, also the author of “The Lord of the Rings” — Prime Minister John Key has been courting more international tourism.

This year in Japan, Mr. Key introduced a “100% Middle Earth” campaign to attract tourists from that country. In September, he made an official trip to Los Angeles to woo the film and tourism industries.

The “Lord of the Rings” films were a boon for New Zealand, attracting more than 20,000 people a year to the country and pouring an estimated 700 million dollars into the economy in 2004 alone.

International tourist spending almost doubled, from 3.1 billion dollars in 1999, when filming of the “Lord of the Rings” began in the country, to 6 billion dollars at the end of 2004, a year after the final installment of the trilogy made its debut. By 2011, however, the number had tapered off to 5.6 billion dollars, according to statistics from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Although the government has not projected any numbers for the “Hobbit” trilogy, it was desperate to keep the filming in New Zealand and repeat the success of “Lord of the Rings.” After a dispute with the New Zealand actors’ union, the government even changed labor legislation to clarify how actors were seen under the law. It also offered the Hollywood studio Warner Brothers an extra $25 million in tax breaks on top of its basic 15 percent subsidy as a sweetener.

The investment seems to have paid off. Research conducted by Tourism New Zealand from May to July found that 57 percent of people already considering trips to New Zealand were aware of the “Hobbit” trilogy. Almost all in that group knew the films had been made there.

Martin Snedden, the head the Tourism Industry Association, a lobbying group, said in a news release that the Tolkien films showcased New Zealand’s “stunning landscapes” and raised awareness of the country around the world. “Unless travelers know we exist, we are never likely to get on their shopping list of potential destinations,” Mr. Snedden said.

But New Zealand’s reputation as a pristine place might not be exactly warranted. Since European colonization 150 years ago, as much as 90 percent of the country’s original wetlands have been drained to make way for towns, farms and roads. The wetlands are considered to be of international importance for supporting numerous species of birds, fish and plants.

For creatures like the black stilt, which lives in such places, it may be too late. There are only about 100 left, making it possibly the rarest wading bird in the world. It is just one species out of the 2,800 that the country’s Department of Conservation considers endangered.

In 2008, New Zealand ranked first among 146 countries in Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, which ranks countries on the quality of their environmental policies. The report compares international data on criteria like habitat loss, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and protected marine areas.

In 2012, however, the country slipped to 14th. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, half of which are caused by the agriculture industry, are the fifth-highest per capita among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the association of free-market democracies. Most other countries in the O.E.C.D. have managed to reduce per capita emissions, but New Zealand’s have increased 23 percent since 1990 — from about 66 million tons of carbon dioxide in 1990 to about 83 million tons in 2009, according to the country’s Environment Ministry.

Pure Advantage, a nonprofit group promoting green business, estimates that the country will overtake the United States in per capita emissions in less than eight years, putting it almost into the world’s top 10. But total emissions in New Zealand, which has a population of 4.4 million, are far lower than those of the United States, with 312 million people.

This month, New Zealand refused to commit to a second round of emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international agreement on reduction of greenhouse gases. Instead, it will align with several of the world’s largest emitters, including the United States, China and India, in negotiating an alternative agreement. That could be approved by 2015 and in effect by 2020.

“This is a day of shame for New Zealand. Our reputation as a good international citizen has taken a massive hit,” Moana Mackey, a member of Parliament who is the climate change spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, said in a statement.

Bruce Willis, a farmer in the Hawke’s Bay region and president of the lobbying group Federated Farmers, said New Zealanders often saw themselves as “the very best at something or very worst.”

“When visitors look at our countryside and our waterways, they are struck by how free they are of plastic bottles and the detritus of modern life,” he said, adding that it was unfair to place most of the blame for environmental problems on the agriculture industry.

Mr. Willis said that the country could do better but that New Zealand farms were “way up there” in terms of environmental performance.

David Broome, the Federated Farmers’ spokesman, cited Yale’s index as showing that New Zealand ranked first in 2012 for the effect of water quality on human health. For effect on the ecosystem, however, the country ranked 43rd.

In the end, he said, the environmental picture is not black and white.

A recent report by Pure Advantage said New Zealand’s environmental record was worrying for the country’s economic future. One of New Zealand’s main priorities, it said, should be giving legitimacy to the “100% pure” branding.

“These rankings will come as a shock to those in New Zealand who believe our country prides itself on its clean, green image,” the report said.

Gregg Anderson, Tourism New Zealand’s general manager for Western long-haul markets, said from his Los Angeles office that he did not believe the campaign was misleading international tourists. “100% pure” was never just about the environment, he said. It was about a New Zealand experience.

“We put our hands on our hearts and say New Zealand does not have a completely untouched environment,” he said, “but we are better than most.”

A version of this article appeared in print on November 17, 2012, in The International Herald Tribune. Read the full article in the New York Times.

Renewable energy opportunities should be taken lest NZ slip behind, says the NZ Herald in this editorial


“In 2004, just over 160,000 Germans held jobs in the renewable-energy sector. Six years later, that number had more than doubled to 370,000. The prospect for the same sort of development here is at the heart of a new report, “Green Growth Opportunities for New Zealand”, prepared by the University of Auckland Business School and London consultancy Vivid Economics. New Zealand, it concludes, has many advantages and opportunities in an eco-conscious world but these have yet to be fully realised.

“As much is obvious. Despite several reports emphasising the benefits of green investment, New Zealanders have seen little in the way of substance. Few green-collar jobs have been created, and there has been no significant improvement in people’s living standards.

“Indeed,little has been achieved in the green growth export opportunities identified by the report, notably sustainable agricultural products and services, geothermal energy, biotechnology, and forestry, including second-generation biofuels. Or in opportunities in the domestic economy, such as improvements in building, transport, energy efficiency and electricity grid technology. That shortcoming is certainly not a consequence of a lack of talk about the significant economic and environmental gains if green growth opportunities were exploited.

“Pure Advantage has been working on the issue for nearly two years.

“A key question, therefore, is why these opportunities are not being pursued more vigorously. Pure Advantage has identified three main barriers: a lack of industry co-ordination or a need for previously associated industries to work together, an absence of cohesive long-term growth policy from the Government, and the lack of detailed business case analysis to clearly define commercial incentives.

“In Germany, the growth in jobs in the renewable-energy sector owes much to an interventionist Government in Berlin. That will not be replicated by the Key Government. Responding to the report, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce noted, unconvincingly, that it underscored the importance of existing Government initiatives. But “it is important that we don’t pick ‘winning’ industries and exclude others”, he added. That observation holds little water as the same Government has moved mountains and the employment law to ensure The Hobbit is made here.

“Nonetheless, it is apparent that if green growth opportunities are to be seized, the private sector will have to take the lead. Talk about industry initiatives will have to be matched by action. The other obstacles identified by Pure Advantage will have to be overcome. These opportunities are being embraced in Europe and parts of the United States, and New Zealand risks missing the boat.

“It would be a great shame if this report went nowhere. If it does, and there are no major oil and gas discoveries, New Zealand’s economic future will continue to depend on the cyclical ups and downs of agricultural commodities. The green growth areas that have been identified offer the prospect of financial profit, environmental benefit, and a better balanced economy. And this in an area where New Zealand already has a competitive advantage globally because of its clean green image.

“If the opportunities are grasped, jobs will be created and living standards will improve. At a time of serious economic and environmental pressure, this is not something that should be allowed to slip by.”

–> Read the full NZ Herald editorial

Otago Daily Times, 16 November 2012
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.

Read the article here.

Kathryn Smith is an economist with London-based Vivid Economics, which helped prepare a report for Pure Advantage called Green Growth: Opportunities for New Zealand. Listen as she discusses the new Pure Advantage report that identifies 21 specific green growth opportunities for this country, on Radio New Zealand’s Nine To Noon with Kathryn Ryan:

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