Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Green Jobs’ Category

Moving on to the next challenge

Posted by on February 25th, 2013

I have enjoyed the Health portfolio. It is huge and arguably, it takes longer than one year to get around and establish networks. I have been doing that in the past year and I am grateful to all those who were prepared to engage intelligently and repeatedly with me. I have been pleased to stick up for diabetics in the disastrous changeover to the Care Sens blood glucose meters. It was a mistake and should be rescinded. It affects the way people manage their diabetes and directly impacts their well being, especially for Type 1 diabetics.

I have also made a running on the increase in prescription charges, changes to pharmacists’ contracts with the DHBs, and the burden of implementation of changes falling on local pharmacies. This sector is in chaos and Tony Ryall continues to pretend that there is nothing to see here. Shelves full of uncollected prescriptions would say otherwise. If people can’t afford medicines, and some clearly can’t, we are only going to see additional hospitalisations further town the track.  This isn’t rocket science – just medical science.

But now I take up a new challenge with the Environment portfolio.  And there are challenges aplenty.  We would all love our myth of being 100% pure to become fact again but we need aggressive leadership in this area if that is ever to happen. From our waterways to our air quality, and much more besides, there is much to do to restore our natural environment and to protect it for future generations.  I look forward to that challenge.

Thanks again to all you good health folk for working with me over the last year.  Keep up the good work!


National 100% dirty on the environment and the economy

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

This month the National Government pulled New Zealand out of the Kyoto II negotiations to tackle climate change. With John Key’s blessing, the Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser put our country squarely in the fringe group of the world’s big polluters. How can National expect the developing world to commit to targets for curbing emissions when they won’t show good faith by doing the same?

Everyone can see the National Party are lost in a time warp on economics and the environment. In National’s twilight every problem can be ignored just as long as their mates can milk more cows and burn more coal, and especially if everyone else can be kept quiet. That’s why National abolished democracy in Canterbury: they’re so consumed with protecting their failed ideologies from the facts that they can’t even tolerate Cantabrians having a voice to say our rivers shouldn’t be making kids sick.

Today the Pure Advantage clean-tech group of business leaders issued their second landmark report on the multi-trillion opportunity in clean-tech and renewable energy.

The report comes with detailed analysis from some of the world’s leading economists and climate scientists. It’s a must read for anyone with an interest in turning around New Zealand’s economic decline.

Pure Advantage’s contribution proves what most New Zealanders instinctively know: the economy and the environment are two sides of the same coin. Protecting our environment not only doesn’t have to harm our economy – it can be the best thing for it.

Earlier this year, when Pure Advantage launched their first report, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce responded with an insulting attack on the trustees which include Sir George Fistonich, Rob Fyfe, Chris Liddell, Phillip Mills, Jeremy Moon, Rob Morrison, Geoff Ross, Justine Smythe, Mark Solomon, Sir Stephen Tindall, Joan Withers and Duncan Stewart.

But today Bill English was trotted out to do the government’s dirty work.

The Finance Minister had hours of advanced warning that I would be grilling the government about Pure Advantage: my question was on written notice.

But in all that time English didn’t even bother to read the report. It’s a 100% dirty disgrace.

In the coming days National MPs will spout all the usual nonsense and deny and demean science and sustainable economic growth, and may abuse the Pure Advantage team some more (unless they’ve learned from their earlier foot-in-mouth outbreak).

But the facts are clear. This government took New Zealand out of the international effort to stop climate change and they’ve just set a new record for unemployment too. National have no credibility on either the environment or the economy.

The only way New Zealand will have a clean, green, clever and growing economy is if Kiwis clean the National Party out of our Parliament come election time.


The Dolphin and the Dole Queue

Posted by on June 27th, 2012

Last Saturday Labour Party members and friends gathered in Titirangi to talk about the environment and green technology. It was great that deputy leader and Labour’s environment spokesperson Grant Robertson was able to join us. (UPDATE, and Grant’s speech can be found here)

I gave a speech about the unbreakable nexus between economic development and environmental protection. It’s called The Dolphin and the Dole Queue and you can read it here or follow the discussion it’s generated at The Standard.

My speech contextualised clean-tech and renewable technologies and how these might meet some of the pressing environmental challenges. It did this by placing in context:

  1. The gathering storm clouds of major environmental trends, such as climate change, fossil fuel scarcity and population growth;
  2. Why a strategic shift to a green economy which incorporates clean-technology and renewable energy is required;
  3. A reality check on the remaining ‘gap’ – that fact that, even with prompt action, major risks and adjustments will still exist;
  4. Rules of thumb for navigating future choices – evidence and analysis, the precautionary principle, and resilience economics.

There is no longer a genuine debate about whether our climate is changing. Instead there is an overwhelming consensus of climate scientists versus the old vested interests of polluters and their curious allies on the conspiratorial fringe.

The truth is our planet is near – if not past – the point where our ever-increasing demands on resources will surpass the Earth’s ability to sustain our civilisation in its current form.

Too many politicians appear to have calculated that frightening people with the truth just makes things difficult for them. Maybe that was true. Perhaps it still is. But the time for short-term thinking must end because the facts are clear.

Do you want future generations to have much more difficult and conflict-riven lives than we do; is it acceptable to you that your descendents should look back at us and ask “How could you have known what you did and yet you did nothing?”

There is huge potential for New Zealand in clean-tech and renewable energy. We’ve already got Lanzatech capturing industrial waste exhaust and turning it into energy. We’ve got SolarCity installing solar panels on thousands of roofs in Christchurch. Living Earth is creating compost from waste which might have gone to landfill. New Zealanders are doing amazing things in the clean economy which matter, and which help us get a slice of the $6 trillion potential global market.

But a core part of my speech stressed that a more serious and sophisticated analysis of the potential and limits of clean-tech is required. Yes, we must ensure New Zealand isn’t left behind and that our country maximises both the ecological and economic value of our necessary transition to a clean economy. But we must also carefully guard against the risks of “green-wash” and being overly optimistic that a move to a low carbon future means business as usual. Because it doesn’t. It’s going to take cultural changes around consumption and stewardship of the things we own and the land we inhabit, and we’re going to have to meaningfully reach out to the developing world so that their rise doesn’t countermine our progress.

New Zealanders must work through the challenges now because the rest of the world is racing ahead of us. We need to deliver a broad public and political push for sustainable economic growth and enhanced environmental protections, and we need to start today because our “clean green brand” is already being questioned overseas.

This change is sharply at odds with National’s “milking and mining” plan of ever-increasing pollution and kicking business leaders who dare to speak out against their dead-end strategy. So progress is going to be a big challenge.

I concluded that, while the challenge is huge, community engagement and activism is necessary and change is possible.

What do Red Alert readers think? How can we get the most from clean-tech? Is enough being invested in its development? How are we going to change attitudes and work together so we can enjoy fulfilling lives today while still saving this planet for our grandkids?


Fyfe on clean, green … and joining the ETS

Posted by on September 17th, 2011

Rob Fyfe, Air NZ’s CEO, gave a fascinating interview with Katheryn Ryan yesterday. He’s a member of Pure Advantage – the group that was set up a few months ago with people like Stephen Tindall, Phillip Mills and others to enhance our clean, green image and make money out of it. He is considering Air NZ voluntarily entering the ETS at 2013 despite a recent report recommending we delay until 2015.

What does he say?
He was affected by a British journalist saying to him she’d love to come to NZ but couldn’t bring herself to go as it was like going “to a Greenpeace rally in a hummer”.
“We need to show leadership [on clean, green issues] rather than align ourselves with every other country.”
“We as a country … have to make a decision”.
“Air NZ has reduced its fuel burn by 13%. “70% of international visitors coming to NZ do care and would prefer to fly on airline that is making an impact.”
“People come to NZ because we are clean and green, not for the shopping. So brand and perception has enormous value.
“We take our environment for granted … as a nation we think in short term-ism. People see the cost and not the long term value.
“Political cycles make for short term thinking, therefore business needs to take a lead.

In other words, clean and green is very good for business. Pity other businesses and farmers don’t feel the same as Fyfe does and that he has so little faith in government.


Kiwi jobs. Kiwi skills. Too important to sell overseas

Posted by on July 9th, 2011

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Some photos from today’s rally for Hillside jobs in Dunedin. (Not quite sure what I was laughing about, or what on earth Pete is doing in the second pic).

More than a thousand people turned out on a bitterly cold Saturday to voice their disgust at the government and Kiwirail’s actions and attitudes in procuring lower quality, cheaper rolling stock from overseas, rather than having it made at home. Keeping skilled workers employed, and an important manufacturing industry sustainable.

The city is united on this issue. The Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce chair, three MPs, the union, Greenpeace and a Green candidate spoke.

My message was essentially that we have to fight for our city. For Dunedin’s future. Because this government won’t. We need these jobs, we needs these skills, we need this industry and it’s economic good sense. I also read out a strong message from Phil Goff.

The government and Kiwirail are telling lies about the cost of Kiwi trains. It’s time they were unmasked.

Our country is not a corporation. And this government can’t decide that parts of our country aren’t worth bothering about because our population base is lower than other parts, and because it’s a Labour town. Dunedin will fight back.


There’s money in being green

Posted by on July 8th, 2011

I was at the very cool and slick launch of Pure Advantage last night. There’s been a bit of media around it, but the message is simple – NZ is clean and green and it’s not only a great thing but we can leverage it to make money out of it. Check out their facebook and website.

A line from last night:
China has committed a trillion dollars to alternative energy. And it’s not because they care about trees.

There’s money to be made in being green.


Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future!

Posted by on April 27th, 2011

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Let’s talk about these green jobs

Posted by on January 30th, 2011

A few years ago, before I became an MP, I attended a property services conference in Helsinki, run by the Global Union for Cleaners, UNI.

I was struck by a presentation from ISS, a global facilities service provider, who talked about how cleaning jobs could be revolutionised, particularly with the growing emphasis on green buildings.

At that stage, most cleaners (including NZ) were employed in the traditional way. As the office staff clocked out, the cleaners clocked in – out of sight, out of mind, working for low wages – working at multiple sites and for multiple employers, often wandering from site to site during the night.

ISS talked about this could change – how cleaning could take place during the day, with cleaners working alongside other staff and perhaps expanding their skills beyond cleaning to pick up other facilities work.

So I was interested to read in Saturday’s Dom Post “that there is office cleaning revolution gathering pace in NZ, where the days of mops and wringer buckets filled with unsafe chemicals and sloshed along office corridor floors and noisy vacuum cleanings trailing long chords are numbered.”

ISS NZ is changing the equipment issued to cleaners to lightweight adjustment aluminum mops, microfibre cloths and battery powered quiet vacuum cleaners. Beginning at Te Papa a couple of years ago, ISS, who employs around 4000 cleaners says that the new system has now been adopted by 25% of their clients.

And the biggest change : changing from nighttime cleaning to daytime cleaning, bringing savings for companies in electricity and security.

While ISS says the savings are great for companies, I think the changes can create a revolution for the traditional job of a cleaner, in a number of ways. Firstly, they are more integrated as part of the building staff, not a group of “fairies” who magically appear while we’re at home sleeping. The higher visibility of cleaning staff during the day should raise the overall awareness of the process and more respect towards cleaners, especially when they see them working to keep the building clean. Coming face to face with the cleaner means greater care is often taken by staff and visitors to keep the building clean.

Secondly, daytime work offers much more family friendly options for cleaners and could make the work much more desirable.

I’ve always said cleaners are undervalued. They are responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment, and now they’re at the forefront of sustainablility in our downtown offices, our airports, schools and hospitals.

The big question is whether that means cleaners’ jobs become worth more (currently, the rate is set at $13.10 an hour), whether there can be decent, full time jobs created through upskilling to take on other work in the day to day life of an office.

NZ’s model of competitive tendering means that more often than not, cleaners are transferred to a new employer who expects them to do the same amount of work for fewer hours.

So, let’s have a revolution in office cleaning, but if it’s still work for vulnerable workers who have to work two or three jobs to make a living, it’s only a revolution for the better off.