Research into the challenges and opportunities facing the Pacific Islands and their communities will flourish thanks to the uniting of resources and expertise of three New Zealand universities.
The University of Auckland, the University of Otago and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have collaborated to form the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR). The NZIPR will be hosted at the lead institution, the University of Auckland.
The Institute is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to deliver a research programme focused on Pacific development, investment and foreign-policy issues.
The new NZPIR will receive $7.5m over five years from the Ministry.
By joining forces, the universities have created a consortium that brings together their multi-disciplinary expertise.
Professor Tony Ballantyne, University of Otago Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Humanities, says the University is keen to be involved in this initiative because of its long tradition of research on the Pacific.
“The creation of the NZIPR means that Otago researchers have the opportunity to bring their expertise into much more direct engagement with the complex processes that frame government policy and aid strategies.
“The Institute will enable our researchers and students to build new research connections, to undertake more fieldwork in the Pacific, and to participate in a research consortium that will regularly bring leading international and national experts on the Pacific to Otago.”
In announcing the initiative, Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the Government has identified the need for more targeted research on the Pacific, to underpin development initiatives and support Pacific decision-makers.
“The New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) will work in support of Pacific governments and regional agencies, and will focus on producing the kind of hard-headed analysis that can support sustainable economic development.
“Our aim is for the NZPIR to become a centre of excellence for research on Pacific development, governance, public policy, and security issues.
“The Government has provided a cornerstone investment of $7.5 million over five years to establish the Institute and develop an initial programme of research,” Mr McCully says.
The University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon says the NZIPR marks a milestone both in Pacific research and New Zealand's relationship with its Pacific neighbours.
“The New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research will be a national and global focal point for research in the Pacific region, a chance to highlight and develop innovative research and engagement,” he says.
AUT Head of Pacific Advancement Walter Fraser says the formation of the NZIPR consortium is a significant step in enhancing New Zealand's Pacific research capacity.
“Together, we look forward to advancing a much deeper understanding of the issues and challenges that face the communities in the entire Pacific region, so that we can collectively provide tangible, sustainable and durable solutions and recommendations for the region,” says Mr Fraser.
The three universities educate 75 per cent of all Pacific Island university students in New Zealand, and produce 60 per cent of Pacific PhDs. They also employ 90 per cent of the 175 Pacific academics working in universities across New Zealand.
Research projects set to start in 2016 include mapping donor contributions in the Pacific and their impact on the region, an analysis of labour markets and the skills needed to underpin economic development, and a study of the drivers and barriers to private sector investment in the region.
The three universities will also work with associated universities and organisations including the University of Hawai'i, the University of the South Pacific, Australian National University and Peking University.
For more information visit the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research.
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