One of several good things which will emerge from NZ First stopping synthetic carpets in taxpayer-funded buildings, is to show people that saving the planet can start with what's beneath their feet.

Being natural, sustainable and totally renewable, wool is a litmus test for how green we are. With qualities like these it should be running out of our shearing sheds, especially when synthetic carpets take a litre of crude oil to make one square metre. It means that since 2011, Housing NZ has put more than two million litres of oil on to the floors of state housing.

Just 20 years ago, wool was a $1 billion export for New Zealand and in today's dollars would be worth $1.5b. In an age of unprecedented environmental awareness why then did our wool exports crash to $523 million in the year to June 2017?

It's a question tens of thousands of farmers, farm workers and shearers would like to know the answer to. Especially when they see a Prime Minister who can shear a sheep but know, deep down, that an urban dominated National Party doesn't want a bar of what they produce.


The government wants to build 34,000 state houses in Auckland over the next decade with a further 60,000 houses expected from its Housing Infrastructure Fund. Based on a track record of 91 per cent synthetic carpets to just 9 per cent natural wool, some 59,000 barrels of oil will be needed for just the floor coverings alone.

And these 59,000 barrels of oil will eventually find their way into landfill, making the plastic bag issue look small. It is time to start sweating the bigger stuff for a change.

This is one reason for why New Zealand First will swing government procurement in behind sustainable wool and natural fibres. Both as floor coverings and increasingly for insulation. Putting crude oil on to taxpayer-funded floors, or in walls as insulation, doesn't cut the mustard.

This also represents a seriously big opportunity for us to get ahead of the game. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that the world is starting to look for more natural alternatives and we as a country need to walk the walk, if we're going to talk the talk.

It is further helped by global bans on microbeads throwing a spotlight on the dangers posed to marine life by minuscule plastic particles.

That spotlight will soon be shone on oil-based synthetic fibres being shed in washing machines around the globe. Production of man-made fibres are expected to surpass 84 million tonnes by 2025.

One study, done by the University of California at Santa Barbara, found that in a single Parisian wastewater treatment plant there were 290,000 synthetic fibre strands in each cubic metre of wastewater.

Kiwi brands, like Icebreaker, can be viewed as the vanguard for natural alternatives and guess what fibre they use - it's called wool.

Now a smart government would kick things off with a simple change in procurement specifications for floor coverings and insulation. That's where we will start. A smart government would also put money into solidifying wool's environmental footprint and tremendous backstory.

A smart government would put serious research and development into unlocking wool's full potential to create jobs here. All things New Zealand First plans to do.

We believe in wool because its qualities speak to what we believe we are as a nation - you cannot preach what you are not prepared to practice.

If farmers, farm workers and shearers want a government that believes in what they work so hard to produce, then they seriously need to reassess how they have voted to date.

Winston Peters is the leader of New Zealand First and is his party's candidate in the Northland electorate. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: