Gareth Morgan raises issues and hackles

16 Jun 2012

Businessman and philanthropist Dr Gareth Morgan gave the keynote speech on Saturday morning at Forest & Bird's Face Up the Future conference at Te Papa. As ever, Gareth  promised to be provocative and he didn’t disappoint.

One of his main points was that ideology has to be stripped away from conservation if it is to succeed in becoming mainstream. Just as ideologues – generally of the right - were climate change deniers and resisted management of our fisheries, ideologues of the left saw the economy and conservation as opposing forces, rather than forces that need to be integrated.   

Conservationists have to be more sophisticated and not be seen as being anti-development without first engaging in weighing up the costs and benefits of any proposals. Gareth added these costs and benefits need to be measured on a broader basis than GDP, which does not take account of many of the things that contribute to our wellbeing, such as clean water and fresh air.

He said conservationists should not be frightened of the concept of trade-offs but any such trade-offs had to be based on science. Another important element of integrating conservation and the environment is to make sure polluters pay for the damage they do rather than passing the cost onto the community.

Spirited debate between Gareth and conference goers followed the address. As Gareth pointed out, he is not yet inside the Forest & Bird tent.