Proposals to mine and process lignite – a low energy form of coal – in the Southern Region are being developed. However, they could come at a high cost, adding at least 10 percent per year to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.
WWF-New Zealand acknowledges it is a difficult decision to leave fossil fuel resources untouched in the Southern Region and forego the potential economic opportunities these resources could provide. To inform debate and aid decision-making on the choices available to the Southern Region, WWF-New Zealand commissioned BERL to provide practical economic research, analysis and advice on potential economic development opportunities with relatively low carbon emissions.
BERL modelled four scenarios that focused on areas the Southern Region has a comparative advantage in. BERL Chief Economist Dr Ganesh Nana says of this project, “regional economic development is a process that results in economic growth and improved community well-being. It should be approached from an evidence base, and address identified issues or needs. Further, economic development plans need to consider the future labour force in terms of training and qualifications, skills and experience, and productivity.”
Dr Nana argues that like all regions in New Zealand, the Southern Region wants to endorse investment, support diversified viable businesses and employment opportunities, and encourage population growth. He states that given the resources and skills endowed to the Southern Region there is a range of economic development opportunities that could be pursued. The challenge he places on the table is for the region to realise a number of these opportunities, thereby further strengthening a diverse economy for the region, and improved outcomes for future generations.
A summary of the report findings is available here. Copies of the full report A View to the South: Potential for Low Carbon Growth Opportunities for the Southern Region Economy are available, and further information about this project can be found, on the WWF-New Zealand website.