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Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee to the Vice-Chancellor

Blossom outside Clocktower


The Vice-Chancellor established the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee in June 2009 following the recommendation of a Working Party on Environmental Sustainability, November 2008. Environmental sustainability in this context refers to the wise use of natural resources; moving to renewable resources where possible; minimising the production of wastes; maximising opportunities to recycle resources; reducing our impacts on ecological systems; contributing to the wellbeing of people and communities, locally, nationally and internationally, and minimising environmental impacts on them.

Download a copy of the Working Party on Environmental Sustainability Report (in PDF format).

Terms of Reference

(Approved 16 November 2009)

a) To provide advice to the Vice-Chancellor on:

i) The development of policy and practices that promote environmental sustainability on University of Otago campuses;

ii) The development, implementation and monitoring of policies and practices that nurture a culture of environmental sustainability on University of Otago campuses;

iii) Promoting the development and maintenance of the University’s campuses, facilities and services so that they embody the principles of environmental sustainability and foster high quality stewardship of the social, economic, cultural and physical environment in which the University operates;

iv) Promoting environmental sustainability in the policies and practices that pertain to all aspects of the carrying out of the University’s research;

v) Encouraging the incorporation of sustainability perspectives into appropriate areas of the University’s teaching activities, to enhance students’ ability to evaluate environmental sustainability issues critically;

vi) Promoting the principles of environmental sustainability in the practice of the University’s community service and outreach;

vii) The governance and management of environmental sustainability in the University.

b) To receive and consider reports and plans that influence the environmental sustainability of University of Otago campuses.

c) To consider and report on any matter concerning environmental sustainability referred to it by the Vice-Chancellor.

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Meetings are held every two months.

Extraordinary meetings are held as required to deal with specific issues.

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Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee’s Plans for the future

The Committee plans to: 

i)            Continue to provide input/commentary on projects generated by the University’s Sustainability Coordinator (SC). 

ii)          Continue and extend the Committee’s working relationship with the Vice-Chancellor.  

iii)         Promote, encourage and facilitate University of Otago student involvement in the development of policy, planning and practices related to sustainability. 

iv)         Support and promote the development and implementation of an environmental Sustainability Plan, in consultation with the SC. 

v)           Consider, support and promote initiatives that will:

-         improve the University’s environmental performance and / or

-         nurture a culture of sustainability at the University. 

vi)          Build and support a network of sustainability advocates across the University (staff and students). 

vii)        Actively participate in and promote sustainability initiatives on campus. 

viii)       Advocate for and support initiatives and improved processes to ensure that sustainability becomes a principle against which all aspects of campus development and operations are considered. 

ix)         Identify opportunities and progress initiatives that help integrate sustainability appropriately with organisational and financial management. 

x)           Promote sustainability in the policies and practices that pertain to all aspects of carrying out research by the University. 

xi)         Support and advocate for learning and teaching activities that help the development of sustainability-literate graduates.  

xii)       Encourage opportunities to participate in sustainability activities on campus (both through formal curriculum and informal activities), as part of the broader University experience, and highlight ESAC’s role in this through the active involvement of Committee members. 

xiii)      Continue to encourage and support the development of strategies for communicating and engaging with the University community to enhance awareness of, contributions to, and collaboration towards, sustainability; this will include revising and further developing the University’s ‘Sustainability@Otago’ website to increase visibility and accessibility of information. 

xiv)     Actively engage with external stakeholders (including local government and sustainability networks) to support and strengthen sustainability efforts at a local, national and international level. 

Long term and ongoing projects: 

i)            Expedite the development and implementation of a Sustainability Plan in conjunction with the SC and the Property Services Division with the aim of finalising and enacting the Plan over the next three years.

ii)          Support the University’s sustainability initiatives and activities as appropriate.

iii)         Provide support to the Chair of Environmental Studies Working Party as required to implement academically sound and coherent environmental studies programmes and papers at the University.

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Professor Carolyn Burns (Chair)                

ZoologyChair of Committee Division of
Professor Tom BrookingHistory and Art HistoryDivision of
Mr Mark BruntonOffice of Māori DevelopmentCo-opted to represent issues of importance to Mā or
021 798 737
Ms Philippa HawkerITSService
Mr Jarred GriffithsOUSAOUSA (Administrative VP)


Dr Hilary Phipps

Property ServicesEnvironmental Sustainability
Dr Sara WaltonManagementDivision of Commerce and School of
Assoc Prof Sarah WakesApplied Sciences

Co-opted as Convenor of the
Environmental Studies Working Party
Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman  Public Health, University of Otago, WellingtonDivision of Health


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Member Biographies

Professor Carolyn Burns

Department of Zoology


Carolyn is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Zoology where she is still active in teaching and research, specialising in freshwater ecology related to the ecology and management of lakes and wetlands. Her longstanding interest in environmental sustainability began more than 30 years ago when, as Chair of New Zealand’s Nature Conservation Council (a statutory advisory body to government), and a Regional Councillor of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), she led the development of the New Zealand Conservation Strategy (1981) that is underpinned by the concept of environmental sustainability. Carolyn has served on numerous governmental councils, committees, working parties, task forces, and tribunals dealing with environmental issues, as well as advisory groups to local and regional bodies, and within the University.

Professor Tom Brooking

Department of History and Art History

(Representing Humanities)

Tom Brooking, MA (Massey) PhD (Otago) is Professor of History at the University of Otago. He trained as a political and agricultural historian at the Universities of Otago and Kent, England. He has published in a wide range of journals on environmental and agricultural history and produced nine books including Environmental Histories of New Zealand (2002) co-edited with Eric Pawson. Between 2005 and 2007 he served on a Cabinet advisory panel on walking access in New Zealand and is a member of the Council of the Agricultural History Society (USA). He is writing a biography of New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minister Richard John Seddon and is working in a collaborative project on Scottish migration to New Zealand. His latest major publication is Tom Brooking and Eric Pawson, Seeds of Empire: The Transformation of the New Zealand Environment published by I.B.Tauris of London in 2010 as part of their environmental history series. Tom looks forward to working with ESAC to help make the University of Otago campus more sustainable.

Mr Mark Brunton

Office of Māori Development


Mark Brunton’s (Ngäi Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Waitaha) role in the Office of Mäori Development at the University of Otago involves ensuring effective facilitation of the consultation process between researchers at the University and Ngäi Tahu through the Ngäi Tahu Research Consultation Committee. Mark is able to provide advice on the consultation process.

Along with colleagues in the Office, Mark is also responsible for delivery of a number of strategic initiatives that are developed as part of the Mäori Strategic Framework. Mark has a role in formal cultural functions within the University including mihi whakatau for various events. As part of the University’s relationship with its iwi partners, Mark liaises with Ngati Toa Rangitira through the Wellington campus.

Completing an Arts degree, Postgraduate Diploma in Commerce and a Masters in Indigenous Studies at Otago, he has more than 20 years experience in the computing industry in operations, software development, systems analysis and website design, development and management. Mark has worked at Databank, Otago University, AgResearch, the DCC, and returned to work for the University of Otago in late January 2006.

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman

Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington

(Representing Division of Health Sciences)

Mr Jarred Griffiths

OUSA Administrative VP

(Representing OUSA)

Jarred Griffiths is the Administrative Vice-President of the Otago University Students' Association, and represents the student body on the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC).  He is in his final year studying towards degrees in Law and Politics at Otago, and also works as a Policy, Research and Communications Assistant for Dunedin North MP David Clark.

Previous to taking up his current roles, Jarred worked as the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for P3 Foundation, and in 2014 as the Communications Director of the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute.  Both organisation were heavily involved in efforts to equip young people with the tools and knowledge necessary to advance international climate justice.

Jarred is excited to represent students on the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee and is looking forward to identifying areas where OUSA can continue to assist with efforts towards a sustainable campus.

Dr Hilary Phipps

Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, Property Services

Hilary Phipps is the Environmental Sustainability Co-ordinator at the University of Otago. This role is based within the Property Services Division and focuses on providing direction, investigating initiatives, assimilating data and developing processes advocating and implementing environmental sustainability into the University’s portfolio and environment. Assisting the University to embed environmental sustainability necessitates looking beyond the limits of Otago’s campuses, developing and maintaining strategic sustainability partnerships and relationships with (local, national and international) environmental stakeholders.

In the past, Hilary has worked as an Environmental Investigator for the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in Wellington. More recently, she completed her PhD in Environmental Science, the aim of which was to explore and deepen understanding around value attributed to community-based ecological restoration projects in New Zealand.

Hilary is thrilled to take up this new position at the University and actively contribute to the work of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee in nurturing a culture of environmental sustainability at Otago.

Dr Sara Walton

Department of Management

(Representing Commerce/School of Business)

Sara is a senior lecturer in the area of business, sustainability and the natural environment in the Department of Management. Her research includes analysing triple bottom line (TBL) company reports and constructions of sustainability, examining ecopreneurial businesses in New Zealand, business responses to climate change including energy efficiency in SMEs and natural resource based conflicts. She teaches 300 and 400 level papers on organisations and the natural environment/sustainability and supervises postgraduate students in these areas. Her papers involve practical aspects of sustainability, for example, carbon and ecological footprints, case studies and scenario planning for the future. Sara is thrilled to be working on organisational sustainability at the University of Otago.

Associate Professor Sarah Wakes

Convener of the Environmental Studies Working Party


Sarah is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Sciences and course director of the Design for Technology major in the Applied Science degree. She is active in teaching and research, specialising in engineering analysis tools, their application to real world problems, the interface and interaction of industrial design and technology, and Computational Fluid Dynamic simulations over complex topographies such as sand dune systems. She is the convenor of the Environmental Studies Working Party, currently undertaking the development of a web portal funded through a Quality Advancement Grant to better project to potential students the wide range of Environmental study options available at the University of Otago.

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