He Kaupapa Hononga was established in early 2020 as a re-shaping of the Otago Climate Change Network (OCCNet).
Shared climate change concern prompts network
OCCNet was unofficially established in 2011 by now Emeritus Professor Colin Campbell-Hunt, while he was a Professor in the School of Management, and Professor Ceri Warnock in the School of Law. The network grew out of a shared concern among academic staff in divisions of commerce and humanities at the social consequences of climate change, and a need to come together to provide research-informed responses to these.
The aims of the network in its original form were to bring together staff from across the University with a shared sense of:
- Wide ranging effects that climate change will have on New Zealand: economic, social and political, environmental and ecological
- The interdependence of these effects and the need to assess them from many perspectives, drawing on many of the physical, life, and social sciences
OCCNet was committed to:
- Raising awareness of climate change across the university, community and beyond, and
- Accelerating adoption of the behavioural changes needed to achieve a low-carbon future
Foundational climate change paper for students
OCCNet ran for about three years on internal department funding, and the passion of its leading members. Though never given a formal status in the University, the group sought to find ways to stimulate awareness about climate change issues, both across the University and among Matariki Network partners.
ENVI312, Interdisciplinary Aspects of Climate Change was established by the group as a cross-disciplinary paper that introduces students to scientific basis for, impacts of, and law and policy responses to climate change. ENVI312 is now an established paper, which has been intellectually housed by a range of departments, including the Faculty of Law, Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, and the School of Geography.
The group also succeeded in hosting Bill McKibben of 350.org and various other external speakers, including a panel discussion between the acting climate change speakers for various political parties prior to the general elections of 2013.
Unfortunately, in 2015 the group went into abeyance due to a lack of funding, though its members continued their own climate change research, communications and advocacy work.
New impetus leads to recognised climate change network
In late 2018, the group was re-stimulated. 2019 was a year of establishment and growth; a key group of academics met monthly to drive progress on joint funding proposals, multiple research symposia partnering with established Otago Research Themes, a highly successful public seminar series, and a Climate Change Literacy lunchtime workshop at the Otago Chamber of Commerce, among other activities. We were able, with Departmental funds, to employ an assistant research fellow to drive this work and help to develop the strategic direction of the network.
In early 2020 we were successful becoming a network supported by the four divisions of the university; the Division of Sciences, The School of Business, the Division of Health Sciences, and the Division of Humanities. With this, OCCNet has grown into He Kaupapa Hononga: Otago’s Climate Change Research Network. This transition was founded on reflection on and reshaping of our values, goals and relationships in the context of the current challenges we collectively face due to climate change.