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Otago graduate gains opportunity to be a leader in his field through Woolf Fisher scholarship

Wednesday 20 September 2017 3:53pm

Oliver Hailes
Oliver Hailes

An Otago alumnus is among three outstanding young New Zealanders with the potential to be leaders in their field who have each been awarded a life-changing Woolf Fisher Scholarship to study at Cambridge. The Trust’s scholarships represent an investment in young New Zealanders and in academic research and innovation.

The 2018 scholars include Oliver Hailes, aged 25, a Law and Arts graduate of the University who is currently a judge’s clerk in Wellington.

The Woolf Fisher Scholarship, which covers the study and living costs at Cambridge, is estimated to have a value of $300,000 for each scholar, making it one of the most generous scholarships available to New Zealand students.

The Chairman of the Woolf Fisher Trust, Sir Noel Robinson, said the recipients exemplify the qualities admired by the late Sir Woolf Fisher.

“These young people all demonstrate that same integrity, leadership, boldness of vision and exceptional zeal, keenness and capacity for work he so admired.

“We look for Woolf Fisher Scholars who will make a significant commitment to New Zealand and become leaders in their fields. We look forward to working with these outstanding scholars throughout their studies and to following their progress and contribution to New Zealand.”

From Southland, Oliver Hailes attended St Kevin’s College in Oamaru, before going on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and then a Bachelor of Law with First Class Honours at Otago.

He is a barrister and solicitor and is currently a judge's clerk at the Court of Appeal. Next year he will start work with corporate law firm Chapman Tripp before pursuing his studies.

In his first year at Cambridge, he will study towards a Master of Law focusing on international investment law, international environmental law, the economics of law and regulation and the Law of the World Trade Organization. For the next three years, Oliver will undertake a doctoral research programme to complete a PhD.

His interest lies in developing domestic and global legal structures that will allow governing institutions to tackle major economic, social and environmental issues facing the world. He wants to break down institutional barriers that address social injustice and climate change.

While working summers at a freezing works, noting the impact of dry conditions, a recession and the proposal by a multi-national cement producer to build a coal-fired plant, he noted, “People would speak of the economy and the environment as if these concepts were autonomous and incompatible. Yet their active engagement in debate disclosed how the relationship between society and nature is hammered out through political discourse and ultimately regulated by the law.

“As a small country dependent on complex supply chains and ecological systems, New Zealand has a strong interest in ensuring that international economic and environmental treaties reflect the needs of people and the planet, while ensuring these instruments are palatable to the vested interests at stake.”

“I hope to return to New Zealand as a legal leader for a truly globalised century that will require constant international collaboration to ensure sustainable prosperity at home and abroad.”

In addition, Oliver volunteers for Kaibosh Food Rescue, Generation Zero and the Social Change Collective (law and policy research on housing) and contributes to Kenya’s Give Directly Universal Basic Income pilot.

The other two recipients this year were Josh Brian, aged 23, a Master of Science student at Victoria University of Wellington, Nat Walker-Hale, aged 22, a Bachelor of Science (Honours) student also at Victoria University.

Sir Woolf Fisher (1912-1975), co-founder of Fisher and Paykel, set up his Trust in 1960 to recognise and reward excellence in education. The Scholarship selects young New Zealanders based on their outstanding academic ability, leadership potential as well as their integrity, vision and capacity for work.

For more information, contact:

Hazel Dobbie
Universities New Zealand (Woolf Fisher Scholarship administrators)

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