In the past few months groups of experts have been gathering in zoom meetings like this to manage the COVID-19 emergency. It has proven to be a highly effective way to get our best minds to address an imminent threat.
That’s the ethos behind the Aotearoa Circle. We can thank the late Sir Rob Fenwick for bringing sector leaders together to address the threats to our nation’s sustainability and prosperity.
In the best possible way, we were all captured by his goodwill, his vision and his determination to make things better.
As Patron of the Aotearoa Circle, I thank you all for giving up your time – and for your commitment to carry on his mission.
The Aotearoa Circle exists to assist change. It acknowledges that changes to the fundamental ways we live and do business cannot be driven by the government alone – and that it is only by using the same collaborative approach we have seen in the last few months, that we can succeed in addressing the threats to our survival.
It feels like the Aotearoa Circle is ramping up at a hugely important juncture in our nation’s story. Your ability to make things happen and take people with you will be crucial, today, and in the months ahead.
COVID-19 has made us put public good as our number one priority. It has made us work together as a team of 5 million, guided by good science.
We can harness that sense of collective responsibility as we pivot towards recovery and renewal.
How and where our next tranche of recovery funding is spent is particularly crucial.
Christiana Figueres, who headed up the Paris climate accord, recently said that we don’t have 10 years to get things right to avert a 2 degree global warming – at the very most, we have 18 months.
What she meant is that if the trillions of dollars being pumped into national economies simply represent a return to the past – then nothing will change.
And we can’t expect a further injection of funds down the track to address climate issues and the renewal of ecosystems.
We are borrowing from future generations and we owe it to them to get it right.
Inaction is not an option. Neither is failure.
There is no economy if our environment collapses, because as our Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton put it, “The economy is a subset of the environment”. We have to learn to live within its limits.
Any evaluation of economic initiatives has to include their impact on our soil, air and water.
He oranga taiao, he oranga tangata. If the environment is well, so too are the people.
Our young people must have opportunities to learn about natural systems if we want New Zealanders to better understand that we live as part of our environment and depend on it for our survival, rather than somehow existing separately from it.
There is work to do to foster and achieve fundamental change in social mores – based on sustainability, so that our interventions in the natural world are considered, thoughtful and informed;
so that we can make better lifestyle choices, and make more accurate assessments of environmental impact in our decision-making.
Our response to COVID-19 has drawn international plaudits.
We now have an opportunity to lead the way in the response to even greater existential threats to the planet.
We can be a nation where green technologies and initiatives are prioritised and regenerative practices in agriculture are the norm.
It’s an approach that reflects Mātauranga Māori and has increasing support amongst New Zealanders.
The very existence of the Aotearoa Circle and your commitment to this meeting is further evidence that sustainability is becoming mainstream, across every sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.
As leaders of those sectors, you have the ability to direct your influence up, down and sideways, and help set the agenda for change.
Today your expertise and perspectives will help us develop solutions that are workable and effective.
Today’s forum is timely, and builds on the Aotearoa Circle’s work on sustainable finance, the contributions from Koi Tū, and the contributions of the working group and Future Voices forum last week.
I am excited to see how many of you are present today, from so many sectors across our economy and our society, because your participation shows that we have a realistic prospect of achieving a reset that takes account of the environment and a future that works for us and for our planet.
Thank you for taking on this challenge to be change-makers.
I look forward to hearing your vision for energy, transport and food in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the steps we can take to achieve it.
No reira kia kaha, kia manawanui i runga i te korero - “Mauri tu, mauri ora”.
Kia ora tātou katoa.