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History of the Centre

Our history

The Centre for Sustainability is one of the University of Otago’s 14 Premier Research Centres and has been around since 2000. It grew from a few small research projects into the interdisciplinary, collaborative Research Centre it is today.

Initially set up by Professor Hugh Campbell, it was originally named the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment but was commonly referred to as CSAFE. Hugh mainly studied the social side agricultural sustainability and had a strong interest in food sustainability. He was joined in 2002 by Professor Henrik Moller who bought research projects with an ecological and indigenous focus with him.

The Centre grew with large interdisciplinary projects such as ARGOS and Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai being funded. Dr Chris Rosin also started work on projects related to climate change during this time.  Dr Janet Stephenson joined the Centre in 2008 as co-leader of the Marsden funded Tirohia he Huarahi: Plans, Power, Partnerships project. She also works in the areas of energy and landscape.

In 2009 the Centre was first recognised as one of the University’s few formal Research Centres and we continued successfully bidding for research money including the Energy Cultures, Rural Futures and Biological Economies research programmes. We have had a sustained level of funding between 1-2 million dollars pa for a number of years now.

Janet Stephenson became the Centre’s new Director in 2011 when Hugh Campbell was appointed to another role within the University; however he retains his research projects through the Centre.

Also in 2011 the Centre become known as the Centre for Sustainability to reinforce its commitment to sustainability-focused research and to better reflect the wide range of research areas we work in.

In 2013 the University showed its support for the Centre by committing to redevelopment of new facility that staff and students will be moving into by the end of 2014.


Over the years the Centre has hosted many, many postgraduate students, visitors (from world renowned experts to postgraduate students with field areas in New Zealand), interns & bursars. Since 2006 we have run a successful Seminar Series and have undertaken many community engagement initiatives. We work closely with Māori and other community groups.