Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Greens woo business with R&D aid

$1b more in tax breaks and grants aims to move NZ away from farms and fossil fuels towards high-tech industry.

Auckland University senior lecturer and nanotechnologist Dr Michelle Dickinson said the R&D policy of Greens  co-leader Dr Russel Norman was key to the country's future. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Auckland University senior lecturer and nanotechnologist Dr Michelle Dickinson said the R&D policy of Greens co-leader Dr Russel Norman was key to the country's future. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Green Party is attempting to boost its economic credentials by making a business-friendly promise to hand out $1 billion more in tax breaks and grants to help New Zealand companies focus on innovation.

The new "headline" economic policy was designed to wean New Zealand off its dependence on agriculture and fossil fuels and towards high-tech industries with low carbon footprints such as Xero, Orion Health and Fisher and Paykel Health.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said National "had bet the farm on the farm" by investing in intensive, polluting industries.

There would be some catches to the new policy, such as mandatory repayments of the subsidy if the company sold to foreign investors. A Green Government would also seek to buy equity in innovative firms which received grants, though this would be at the company's discretion.

The proposal followed an earlier Green promise to cut corporate and household taxes to return the income from a new carbon tax.

In its latest bid for the centrist vote, the party said it wanted to gradually increase R&D spending by a total of $1 billion between 2015 and 2017.

At present, NZ invests about $2.6 billion in R&D, split evenly between the Government and the private sector. This amounted to 1.27 per cent of GDP - far lower than the OECD average of 2.4 per cent.

Even after the Greens' boost, the total R&D spend would still be well below other small, advanced nations such as Finland or Singapore.

Dr Norman said the Greens would reveal how the policy would be paid for next month, when the party outlines its overall fiscal plan. He also promised to fund 1000 more engineering, maths, physical science and computer science places at NZ universities at a cost of $50 million.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said many of the Greens' proposals such as incentives for engineering and science students were already in place.

He said National had boosted R&D funding from $800 million in 2008.

- NZ Herald

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