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BERL report moots alternatives to lignite

Hundreds of new jobs and tens of millions of dollars could be generated for the people of Southland without developing the polluting coal industry, a new economic report by BERL has found. 

Concerned by proposals to mine and process lignite coal in the southern region, WWF-New Zealand asked BERL to investigate the potential for lower carbon forms of economic development in the region.

The WWF-New Zealand commissioned report is calledA View to the South: Potential Low Carbon Growth Opportunities for the Southern Region Economy. BERL’s economic modelling also shows that by 2026, an additional 820 jobs in engineering, 755 in education and training, and 540 jobs in the horticulture sector could be created. This could generate $115 million, $91 million and $67 million respectively, above business as usual growth.

Report author and chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana, speaking at the report’s launch, said the southern region has a wide range of economic development options available.

"The four different scenarios BERL modelled – forestry, horticulture, manufacturing and engineering, and education and training – build on the region’s known competitive advantages and land-based economy, and have the potential to be low carbon.

“What we found was that with greater investment, all four sectors present opportunities for greater employment and GDP beyond the business as usual outcome.

“Greater investment in forestry and wood processing, for example, could create 1,180 full-time jobs within the next 15 years, over and above business as usual growth. It could add $190 million of GDP to the Southern region economy.”

WWF-New Zealand climate change campaigner, Peter Hardstaff, said the report shows that forgoing the exploitation of fossil fuels does not mean forgoing all jobs.

"It just means doing things differently. There are a range of options to pursue in the Southern region which could create more jobs and more money for people in the region, in potentially low carbon industries."