Protecting our “pure advantage” crucial for our economy and ecology

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Forest & Bird press release

Pure Advantage’s report ‘New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race’ released this morning is firmly supported by independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird. Forest & Bird believes New Zealand’s economic future is underpinned by its brand as a clean and green country, and gives it a crucial competitive advantage in the global economy.

“We sell ourselves to the world as a country that values and protects its natural heritage. And it is that environment, those landscapes, that wildlife that draw people here and encourage people to buy our products,” says Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Nicola Toki.

“Our natural environment is the cornerstone of our economy. But instead of investing in the driver of our economy, we have traditionally seen the protection of it as a ‘cost’, and whittled away the resources required to protect it.”

Tourism is our largest employer and our second-largest export earner. Most tourists come to New Zealand because of our ‘clean green’ image – which we must live up to in order to maintain this industry. However, a lack of protection of biodiversity has led to an internationally embarrassing profile, says Nicola Toki.

“Last year a scientific study of 189 countries placed us at 18th worst in the world in terms of our environmental performance. The mask is slipping and the consequences will be our reputation and ultimately our financial performance in the tourism industry will be irreversibly damaged.”

The competitive advantage of New Zealand’s environment also impacts our other export industries. Most major exports rely heavily on branding New Zealand as a beautiful country full of wild landscapes and unique wildlife to sell their products.

“When consumers overseas buy a New Zealand made product, they are buying into an understanding that we are a country that loves and protects our natural heritage. We risk losing their trust by not living up to this implicit contract.”

“Instead of producing the same products and commodities and competing from a distance with the rest of the world, we should be focusing on improving the environmental quality of our goods and services and attracting a higher profit margin to ensure an ecologically and economically sustainable future.”

“It’s fantastic to see some leadership around the value that New Zealand’s environment brings to our country, instead of it being seen as a cost,” Nicola Toki says.