Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall says Canterbury should be looking to feed a hungry Asian market to take advantage of New Zealand's clean, green reputation.
The Christchurch rebuild would also present business opportunities for the region's innovative technology companies, he said.
Tindall is a founding member of Pure Advantage, a not-for-profit organisation working on a green growth strategy for the country.
Pure Advantage advocates `green growth for greater wealth' – green growth being the economic benefits that come from minimising waste and inefficient energy use, reducing pollution and enhancing natural resources.
The group yesterday released a report entitled "New Zealand's position in the green race", which highlighted the country's shortcomings and `slippages' in terms of its 100% Pure brand.
Tindall told The Press that Canterbury, in particular, could capitalise on that pure brand for economic growth.
"I think what the real future is for New Zealand, but more particularly for [Canterbury], is servicing the fast-growing Asian market."
There was "massive" demand for New Zealand-made baby formula by Chinese consumers, for example.
"They can buy it in China but they don't trust the food security of the Chinese-made stuff so the demand for it in New Zealand is massive," he said.
Canterbury's good water and soil quality and favourable growing conditions meant the region had the opportunity to leverage its growing capacity, Tindall said.
Canterbury, and New Zealand generally, should leverage its clean, green image and enhance what it had already, with good environmental practices.
New Zealand needed to protect its 100% Pure reputation from denigration, Tindall said.
The "next phase" for Canterbury's "green growth" lay in the development of start-up technology companies in the region.
Companies like YikeBike and SolarCity were using their green technology image to their benefit.
There were a number of other technologies that had come out of Christchurch, which had a tremendous amount of innovation.
The amount of insurance money being invested in the region through the rebuild presented a great opportunity for green growth.
"I think you have got more opportunity, probably, than anywhere else in the country as a region, with the amount of money that's going to be spent down there."
There was opportunity for new technologies to be built into new homes, like new insulation, solar energy, or cleaner heating technologies.
But the earthquakes had had an impact on that sector, he said.
"The earthquakes have definitely slowed things up a bit, that's definitely taken its toll on a number of businesses, but the ones we've put investment into, they've adapted, in some cases had to move, but they're still going and still got the same amount of potential."