Interview: Rob Whitney (EFNZ) and Phil O'Reilly (BusinessNZ)

15th August 2012

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Rob Whitney
EFNZ, the WEC’s New Zealand member committee, has recently joined forces with BusinessNZ to form the BusinessNZ Energy Council. Here, Rob Whitney and Phil O’Reilly tell us how the new organisation will be championing the ‘NZ Inc.’ brand.

Your two organisations have joined forces. What’s the thinking behind it?
Phil O’Reilly, BusinessNZ: Secure, affordable and sustainable energy is essential for New Zealand’s enterprise and particularly our major export industries where energy is a critical input. Furthermore, if global economies are healthy, New Zealand export markets will grow and New Zealand will prosper. BusinessNZ, with the Energy Federation of New Zealand (EFNZ), is therefore committed to supporting the World Energy Council to focus on the world “energy trilemma”: energy security, social equity and environmental impact mitigation.

Rob Whitney, EFNZ: I see the merger with BusinessNZ as providing a more sustainable business model to ensure the continuation of New Zealand’s pan-energy participation in the local and global energy agenda. I have been Chair of the EFNZ for the last 12 years and involved with the WEC for 25 years. New Zealand’s membership goes back way beyond that.  I have been honoured to have been at every WEC Executive Assembly since Houston in 1998. I want to ensure that strong pan-energy collaboration continues in New Zealand, and that we continue to play our part internationally.

What benefits do you see in linking up?
RW: There have been major structural changes in the energy sector in New Zealand, just like everywhere else. The next stage will be the partial privatization of state-owned electricity and coal companies. Energy organizations need to change to keep up with these changes. That’s why EFNZ is combining with BusinessNZ to form the BusinessNZ Energy Council (BEC). BusinessNZ is a much bigger organization than EFNZ and most energy companies and associations are members, so the WEC’s participation and costs will be able to be shared by larger number of members.

What programmes or activities will you be planning together?
RW: Over the past 10 years EFNZ has organized more than 70 events, including seminars, conferences, and workshops, with over 4000 attendees. We have worked with government to develop an Energy Research Investment Strategy which led to an increase in government investment in energy research. We’ve prepared Sustainability Information kits for six industry sectors sponsored by the Ministry for the Environment, and hosted energy policy forums with New Zealand’s political parties before the last three elections.  We have sent our future energy leaders as youth delegates to the Sydney, Rome, and Montreal Congresses. We have been an active member of the WEC’s Asia Pacific Region hosting a Regional Meeting in 2010, and led the WEC Regional Cross Border GHG Project initiative to promote CDM.

The merger will help ensure this level of activities can continue and grow.

What should we expect to see come out of the collaboration in a few years’ time?
PO: The world needs to invest in the energy infrastructure to prosper, including by reaching out to supply commercial energy to the 1.5 billion people in the world who still haven’t got access to it.  BusinessNZ therefore has committed to retaining New Zealand’s membership of the WEC, and being part of this initiative.

The BusinessNZ network currently includes ExportNZ, Manufacturing NZ, Sustainable Business NZ; regional chambers of commerce; employers, manufacturers, and industry associations, including those in the energy sector. Using these Business NZ networks, we will be able to get much wider involvement in our New Zealand
programme, and participate more actively in the WEC, getting much more value out of the WEC for our members.

BEC will be a powerful advocacy group in support of consistent and well-structured policies that underpin New Zealand conditions and the goals of the BEC and the WEC.  We want to advance sustainable energy development both in NZ and globally.  The BEC will be representative of the energy sector across New Zealand’s economy will allow us to build a strong, collective voice on energy that supports the ‘NZ Inc.’ brand, and at the same time provides leadership and best practice throughout our business community.

BusinessNZ, through the BEC, will encourage its members to support and encourage sustainable energy development. We will provide more capability around current work programmes and deliver better value to members. We will take a stronger role in leading and educating companies to engage in sustainable energy practices. We will partner with government and industry on projects and other initiatives.

Phil O’Reilly is Chief Executive of BusinessNZ, New Zealand’s largest business advocacy group, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes. He is a member of the Board of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD and is New Zealand’s employer delegate to the International Labour Conference.
Rob Whitney is Chairman of the Energy Federation of New Zealand, the WEC’s New Zealand Member Committee. He serves on the WEC’s Communications and Outreach Committee and is active in many areas of the WEC’s work.

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