While New Zealand as a country becomes greener in its thinking, as evidenced in the last general election, it still lags well behind the world in the actual adoption of policies such as alternative fuels for vehicles. The Grant Thornton International Business Report found that New Zealand was at the bottom of a list of 40 countries for businesses considering, or having already introduced, alternative fuels for their vehicles. Simon Carey, Partner, Grant Thornton New Zealand, said that only seven percent of the companies surveyed had considered or were using alternative fuels against a global average of 24 percent. Japan (48 percent) led the way followed by Malaysia, the Philippines and Turkey, all on 46 percent. The United States was 27 percent, the United Kingdom 24 percent and Australia 15 percent.
“At first glance the figures look terrible, but need to be put into perspective in light of the make-up of the New Zealand economy, our geography, and the improving awareness and acceptance of green initiatives. There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction,” he said. Carey cites the lack of big businesses in New Zealand as a key factor at our lack of adoption of alternative fuels, and the logistical headaches caused by our elongated country and rugged terrain. “Basically we are a country of small to medium sized businesses that do not have the balance sheets and fleet size to make an impact. And for many of these businesses, since the Global Financial Crisis, the last few years have been all about survival rather than adopting green initiatives, which might put pressure on their bottom line. Half of the New Zealand businesses noted cost as a deterrent while 37 percent were concerned about the difficulty in refuelling or recharging their vehicles given New Zealand’s ribbon-like infrastructure,” he said.
Carey said that all was not necessarily gloom and doom as shown by the popularity of the Green Party in the elections, the growing number of green taxis and hybrid vehicles on our roads and the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme. “There is a lot of attention being invested into New Zealand’s ‘clean – green’ image, which is great. Also, as a country the few large companies we do have demonstrate a social conscious when it comes to green matters. Look at Air New Zealand and how it has been trialling alternate fuels. However, for the momentum to accelerate and to see improvement in figures such as these of the adoption of alternative fuels for our vehicles, then it is going to require more effort from central Government. We’re heading in the right direction, but some solid support from the Government will definitely consolidate and accelerate our green consciousness,” he said.