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Moving on from the ideas of last century

Grant Robertson

By Grant Robertson

Lately we have spent a lot of time debating an idea from another century – asset sales.

Selling our assets was a big part of the economic experiments in New Zealand in the 1980s and 1990s. Billions of dollars of value lost to ordinary New Zealanders, assets that were stripped and on-sold… everyone knows the story.

Yet the National government continues to push the same idea - an idea that was so discredited last century - into this century with its new round of asset sales. Amazing.

Sadly, it is stuck in the thinking of last century in pretty much everything else as well.

And that’s no more obvious than in the view that our economy and environment are locked in some kind of battle to the death, and that government’s role is to ensure a ‘balance’ between them.

Labour rejects the idea that economic advancement can only come at a cost to the environment.

It has been fascinating to see Steven Joyce go out of his way to try to dismiss and discredit the recently released report from the Pure Advantage group on green growth. Silly, not just because it is an excellent report, but also because it comes from business people such as Stephen Tindall, Rob Morrison and Philip Mills; people I would have expected the government to at least give a fair hearing.

One of the founders of Pure Advantage was Sir Paul Callaghan. He was a man I respected immensely. His vision and passion for New Zealand shone brightly.

He was a man who saw with immense clarity and focus that within the shared Kiwi experience of our environment lay the key to our future prosperity.

He understood that the qualities that make this such a great place to live are the very same that propel our economic success.

He rightly pointed out that we don’t have enough physical space or water for the quadrupling of cows that would be required to catch Australia.

As good as we are at making the grass grow faster and getting cows to produce more milk, there is a physical limit to our ability to replicate that success.

As David Shearer pointed out in his recent speech, if we are to have a truly sustainable economy we can’t take our environment for granted. It is our competitive advantage; our point of difference.

The isolation of the environment as a separate, discreet issue has to end. It is as inextricably bound to our economy, as it is to our identity.

Labour is seeking to support an economy that builds on and reinforces our natural environment.

This will mean supporting innovation, research and development. It means supporting businesses and individuals who have ideas that grow a sustainable economy.

For us in the 21st century the economy and the environment are not things to be balanced; they are two sides of the same coin that must be advanced together.

Grant Robertson is Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, MP for Wellington Central and Spokesperson for the Environment

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