Visionweek day three – Sustaining NZ: sustainable agriculture, water, energy, efficiency

Visionweek NZ 2020 is on its third day of its week-long virtual summit exploring the question ‘What next for New Zealand?’ following the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

The event shares thoughts from many of New Zealand’s most prominent people in innovation looking at a collection of topics including tourism, technology, transport, business, infrastructure, housing, science, health and education.

Guest speakers include Dr Rod Carr, Chair of the Climate Change Commission, Nicole Rosie, CEO of NZTA, Massey University’s Professor Paul Spoonley, Sustainability Consultant Kate Boylan, Founder of Xero Rod Drury and Sustainable Business Council Executive Director Mike Burrell to name a few.

The organisers invite us all to get involved in the important conversation about to unfold regarding the future of New Zealand, with a focus on key areas such as sustainability, productivity, resilience and high-quality outcomes for all people, communities and the environment in a post-Covid world.

Visionweek founder Paul Blair says, “A vision can create the ‘north star’ that links our team of five million, but it needs to quickly translate into a multi-decade, multi-partisan nation-building plan. Our plan needs to realise New Zealand’s untapped potential and put people, purpose and planet at the heart of transforming Kiwis lives for the better.”

Each day this week is focused on a different theme, the third day of the summit is focused on the sustainability of New Zealand from agriculture, water, energy and efficiency.

Rob Carr is New Zealand’s Climate Change Commission chair and talks about the commission’s belief that electrification is the key to the reduction of the country’s carbon footprint. He says that electrification for home heating, electrification for electric vehicles, electrification for space heating and industry, as well as some industrial processes can be electrified.

“So investing to increase new Zealand’s capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources to distribute that electricity to where it needs to be is a significant investment opportunity with no regrets.”

“Well, the commission believes that it is incredibly important, not just for central government in a Covid stimulus world, but for all investment decisions going forward, whether they’re made by central or local government by public private sector, these investments now need to all be looked at through a climate change lens.

He says this is the time for business and government to take the lead, “that there are opportunities here to invest, to stimulate the economy and to invest wisely for the future.”

Dr Rod Carr, Climate Change Commission chair

Thinking about sustainable and efficient transport options, NZTA CEO Nicole Rosie says Covid has highlighted the importance of alternative options:

“Walking, cycling and alternate transport, like scooters, electric scooters, electric vehicles, electric cycles are all becoming really good and really important alternate transport modes.”

She also says that the common view of a trade-off between economic and sustainable outcomes is no longer a realistic viewpoint. She says if Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s that you cannot trade these two things off, you have to achieve both.

“We not only need to achieve long term economically effective of assets, we also need to achieve assets that are sustainable of good quality.”

Nicole Rosie, NZTA CEO

New Zealand’s coasts are extremely venerable to climate change, and 90 per cent of the country’s critical infrastructure are coastal. McKinsey Senior Partner Andrew Grant asks what we’re doing to create environmentally resilient infrastructure for the future.

He says compares New Zealanders knowledge of change and actioning it with the pandemic: “It’s the same with climate change. We know what’s going to happen, but we acted with Covid because the reality became in front of our nose. The reality with climate change is in front of our nose. We just need to act.”

Scientist Sir Peter Gluckman believes the future of sustaining Aotearoa needs to happen with both a ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approach, with an importance in educating people from an early age and including it as part of the curriculum ensuring that “our young people, the people at school see that understanding the environment, alongside understanding history, mathematics, English, is an important thing to do”.

“We would want them to understand their biological heritage, to understand the difficult choices we have to make between exploiting our environment and protecting our environment”, he concluded.

Scientist Sir Peter Gluckman

NZGBC Sustainability Consultant Kate Boylan shared her frustration with clients looking for a cheap build over insulation and efficient systems which “just seem logical”.

“My priorities for new Zealand’s feature would be sustainability at its core, environmental, social, and cultural outcomes at the heart of every decision. I think we can genuinely have great economic outcomes while still having fantastic environmental, social, and cultural outcomes.”

Sustainability Consultant Kate Boylan

Xero founder Rod Drury asked attendees to imagine being able to build clean products at a really low cost with renewable energy. He says renewable energy just makes so much sense now because of the climate benefits and thinks people are going to be far more open and even demanding of countries to have a clear strategy.

He says New Zealand would be a leader on the world stage if it were to demonstrate a willingness to move towards electric transport such as driving, aviation, etc. which in turn would bring in a ‘whole lot of R&D’.

Xero founder Rod Drury

“Sustainability, the environment and equality are those key values that separate New Zealand from a whole lot of other places. Probably 80 per cent of us agree with those values, so we can move absolutely faster. And this is where being small and being nimble does allow us to lead,” he says.

Tomorrow’s theme will take delve into the quality of living in New Zealand: meeting community needs, housing and health. The summit is free and accessible to all – you can register on their website:

Day Two – Connecting NZ: Read about day two of Visionweek here.

Day One – Opportunity NZ: Read about day one of Visionweek here.

– Natalia Rimell


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