Russel Norman: It's time for a green energy boost

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Russel Norman. Photo / Supplied
Russel Norman. Photo / Supplied

Infrastructure is about thinking long-term. It's about making investments that will stand us in good stead for the decades ahead.

In our future, renewable energy and low-carbon industry will prosper. It's a future in which the natural environment is ever more valuable and where having a reputation for being clean and green is a priceless economic advantage. Our natural environment is an integral part of our infrastructure. New Zealand's clean green brand is what sets us apart and opens doors to international trade.

We need to develop our infrastructure in respect of it.

It takes money to build robust and efficient infrastructure, but that doesn't necessarily mean higher taxes. One of our greatest opportunities is the global green economic wave.

We can develop our publicly owned energy companies to capitalise on the growing international market for clean energy technology.

By supercharging our energy sector with a clean green focus, and piggy-backing on our 100 per cent Pure brand, we can both protect our environment and boost our economy.

Keeping energy companies in public ownership would ensure profits stay in New Zealand and that the Government has a steady stream of income.

Allowing public energy companies to partner with private sector clean tech entrepreneurs could create a research and development community that would help keep talented New Zealanders in the country.

We also need to develop our transport systems to protect against increasingly expensive oil costs.

Oil prices will rise and fall, but the long-term trend is up. We need infrastructure strategies so, in the future, New Zealand families will still be able to afford to get around.

Spending billions on motorways in place of efficient public transport systems, as the current and previous governments have, simply locks us into oil-dependency. Instead, the country would benefit more from developing efficient public transport services such as the Auckland CBD rail loop, safe walking and cycling options and compact urban design.

Possibly the greatest threat to our 100 per cent Pure brand is the damage we're doing to our formerly pristine waterways.

You don't need to be a nature lover to appreciate how New Zealand's clean, green international reputation boosts our export markets.

The economic cost of farms and industry polluting waterways is potentially catastrophic.

This is about smarter farming and having our dairy industry survive in an increasingly environmentally conscious international market.

There are solutions to our water pollution problems: better regulations promoting efficient methods of using water resources; support for on-farm water storage to protect against climate-induced drought; and financial assistance for farmers adapting to the changing environment.

New Zealand is nicely placed to prosper in such a future, but only if we think carefully about infrastructure. If we want an economically prosperous future while living in an environmental paradise, we need solutions that consider the long term. Not just the next election.

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