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Tindall, Fyfe, Liddell and Pure Advantage friends front green warpath

A group of corporate leaders snubbed by government last year has come out fighting—in the green corner. The newly formed Pure Advantage group accuses government of "lack of leadership".

 Just two days after the government released its Green Growth discussion paper, a group of senior business leaders is accusing the Government of a “lack of environmental leadership”. 

The Pure Advantage group,  which  includes Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe, former General Motors chief financial officer Chris Liddell, and Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall, launched its own campaign Thursday night, to champion a more aggressive defence of  'clean green New Zealand'.

The Pure Advantage campaign has its own Facebook page and its YouTube channel is taglined “green growth for greater wealth”.  Also fronting the group are IceBreaker founder Jeremy Moon and the Wellington-based Morrison brothers, Lloyd and Rob, Philip Mills of the Les Mills gym franchise, 42Below and Ecoya founder Geoff Ross, veteran vintner George Fistonich, professional director Joan Withers, and New Zealand Post Ltd. deputy chair Justine Smyth.

The group has also received endorsement from climate change campaigner and Australian of the Year Tim Flannery who gave a video statement at Thursday's launch, as did Chris Liddell.

The group, hitherto called the 100% Initiative, was formed in late 2009 to prompt government and industry to aggressively address issues such as climate change, carbon pricing and green marketing.  The group quickly added heavy-weight business names and was initially welcomed by the Beehive.

But a promised collaboration on a national strategy document resulted in a watered down terms of reference for group chaired by Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly. Its report, released Tuesday, acknowledges the importance of clean technology and the national brand but is plumbing for a regulatory rather than rallying cry role for the government.

Mills downplays the differences between the two groups. “All (government) taskforces have defined parameters. We don’t have defined parameters. It’s a positive the taskforce is running. In many respects, we can complement what they are doing, particularly as we can look at things that they can’t.

“We think there’s an opportunity off the back of New Zealand’s credentials. We have the relevant skills and technologies, so what we are keen to see happen is that we align that with global efforts under a pure clean and green brand.”

On the government’s push for more fossil fuel extraction, Morrison said: “The big trend globally is towards more efficient, lower carbon technologies. Would you rather be on the leading edge or focused on some of the legacy-style industries?”

The appeal proposes a national strategy of pursuing “green growth”, not only to prepare for a low-carbon future and create new industries, but to protect and make true the New Zealand “clean, green” brand, which it says is under threat.

“International benchmarks and recent media coverage overseas have exposed a gap between New Zealand’s clean, green rhetoric and reality,” said Rob Morrison, chair of the Pure Advantage Trust, in a statement.

“We simply can’t afford to let our reputation, and consequently our exporters, suffer because of a lack of environmental leadership,” he said. “Nor should we miss the opportunity that the global shift to green growth represents for a country like New Zealand.”New Zealand had slipped not only in economic competitiveness, but also in its environmental status while countries advancing up the economic rankings were also commonly investing in clean tech.

Geoff Ross describes the campaign as a 'wealth creation' opportunity and says it ought to look like a business campaign. The campaign will seek to use social media to encourage a debate and the generation of ideas and support for the concept of a national strategy, based on a clean technology approach.

When Ross spoke to a room full of Sustainable Business Network members earlier this year, the self-professed eco-capitalist made it clear he didn’t want New Zealand to miss the green boom, like we did the technology boom. New Zealand has a massive opportunity in terms of eco wealth, he said, but we have to be careful with how we’re selling ourselves to the world. 

He cited an example from the Guardian newspaper where author, environment journalist and Guardian columnist Fred Pearce, fed New Zealand to the dogs saying we are falsely trading on our positive environmental image. 

“My prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as 'clean and green'," wrote Pearce.

That clean and green image was most recently and infamously challenged on BBC programme Hardtalk where John Key was left sweating after host Stephen Sackur put some tough questions to the Prime Minister about the clean and green image on which New Zealand prides itself. 

As part of the 12-minute interview, Sackur fired into Key, quoting Dr Mike Joy, an environmental scientist at Massey University, who says New Zealand is delusional about how clean and green it is. Sackur cited a number of environmental faults, including a quote from Joy that says 90 percent of lowland rivers are classed as polluted, to which Key replied: 

“If anybody goes down to New Zealand and looks at our environmental credentials...then for the most part, I think on comparison with the rest of the world we are 100 percent pure,” replied Key. 

Key said he could find a number of opinions that would counter Joy’s view, but Sackur wasn’t buying it. 

“100 percent is 100 percent, and clearly you’re not 100 percent,” replied Sackur. “Whether you agree with Mike Joy’s figures or not, you’ve clearly got problems of river pollution, you’ve clearly got problems with species which are declining, threatened with extinction.” 

Pure Advantage, whose name plays on the 100% Pure national tourism campaign branding, will shortly release independent research it has commissioned on “New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race”.

(additional sourcing from BusinessDesk)