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an illustration of the new building Wai-Ora

The University of Otago's newest Christchurch campus building, which is currently under construction, has been gifted the name Wai-Ora.

The new campus building under construction in Christchurch has been gifted the name Wai-Ora, symbolising the wellness properties of water and the Ōtakaro Avon River it sits alongside.

University of Otago, Christchurch, Dean and Head of Campus Professor Suzanne Pitama announced the name of the new campus research building to staff and students at the annual Matariki staff awards celebration in the Rolleston Theatre last Thursday.

Professor Pitama has been actively engaged with mana whenua Ngāi Tuahuriri, being led by Professor Te Maire Tau (a Ngai Tahu historian) in confirming the proposed name for the new building, which is on target to be completed by April 2026.

“As well as being memorable and easy to pronounce, the name Wai-Ora represents the spiritual and tangible relationship between mana whenua, the building’s location, and the health research, clinical practice and teaching that will be conducted onsite,” Professor Pitama says.

“The name symbolically recognises many things, including the place of water in the Ngai Tahu creation story and the karakia that align with this, the place of water in providing and sustaining life, and the place of water in clearing things from a state of tapu, holding both a public health and spiritual meaning.”

Professor Pitama says the name also recognises the place of water in sanitation standards in sustaining ongoing good human health, plant and animal life, the importance of environmental water standards, as well as the positioning of the building by the Ōtakaro Avon River at what was once a strong trading post historically.

The name Wai-Ora was acknowledged and embraced by both the Project Steering Committee and the University of Otago, Christchurch, Executive Planning team.

The announcement was made at the UOCs annual Matariki Awards, which recognise staff “star” achievement in demonstrating core campus values, including leadership, social accountability, respect, and collaboration.

The major prize, the Gold Medal for Research Excellence, was awarded this year to Professor Chris Pemberton from the Christchurch Heart Institute (Department of Medicine) for demonstrating sustained excellence in research which magnifies the values of UOC and contributes to the health and wellbeing of Aotearoa New Zealand.

several awards on a table with people seated in a lecture theatre in the background

The Matariki staff awards are held to acknowledge the outstanding work of Otago's Christchurch campus staff.

The UOC Matariki Award winners for 2024 are:


This award acknowledges staff contribution to utilising their research/teaching influence to better support community initiatives and innovations.


Allamanda Fa'atoese - for exceptional leadership and engagement with local Pacific communities through her research, outreach, and medical teaching, and her ability to facilitate connections between UOC staff and students and Pacific leaders, organisations, and groups.

Alex Tino for her essential voice for Pacific people, lending a Pacific lens to research being undertaken in Gynae-oncology; and for her role as Chair of the Pacific Advisory Group for several obstetrics and gynaecology studies.

The Student Pantry Team of Amanda Landers, Sheila Mark, Todd Moore, Diane Ness, Tamati Te Kahu, and Kim Pasley for their significant work establishing this initiative, which has had great feedback from all students, and which goes above and beyond standard job requirements.

The Ngā Hua Akoranga Research Team lead by Dr Maira Patu for their research work to identify what’s required to deliver equitable outcomes in future pandemics. Borne from the delivery of equity-oriented mobile vaccine clinics throughout the Waitaha Canterbury region during Covid-19,  these efforts contributed to Canterbury having the highest rates of access and Covid-19 vaccination for local Māori whānau nationwide.


This award acknowledges staff for their demonstration as a key stakeholder in supporting the growth and development of the UOC campus.


Scott Hallman for his outstanding work in developing the palliative care online modules in collaboration with multi-disciplinary clinicians – working with tight time frames and making himself available outside work hours so that the project could launch on time.

Jenny Jordan and Professor Joe Boden for being long-term collaborative members of the Māori Research Komiti; helping build capacity for all UOC research to be responsive to Māori health advancement.

Anne Vernall for her work in providing administrative support to the restructured Older Persons Health module. Anne worked diligently and collaboratively with the co-convenors to assist with the creation of this new initiative, which was complex and time pressured.

Laura Veenendaal and Grace Borichevsky for their coordination and running of the UOC Bake-Off competition since Covid-19 restrictions allowed. As PhD students their dedication to fostering our campus community goes above and beyond what’s expected of them.


This award acknowledges staff for their ongoing support to UOC through their networking and advocacy.

Recipient: Simon Adamson for his display of respect for the voices of people with lived experience of mental health and addiction problems in his teaching and advocacy work; advocating for groups of people who are stigmatised or disadvantaged both within society and in academia; providing empathic support for postgrad students who have followed a non-traditional path into academic study and those students for whom a disability or difficult life circumstances affects their study.

Teaching Awards: Acknowledgement of their demonstrated sustained outstanding competence in direct teaching and/or supervision, course development and/or innovation, and contribution to the UOC teaching and learning environment.

Recipients: Chris Bloomer - Psychological Medicine; Anthony Ali - Medical Education Unit; and Tayler Adam - Centre for Interprofessional Education.

The Robin Fraser Research Supporter of the Year Award: Acknowledgement of outstanding support to research and researchers.

Recipients: Maira Patu and Amber Philpott for the development of the new Māori Health Advancement Programme.  Maira was the Associate Dean Māori at the time; and Amber as the technological whizz behind the team of four.

Christchurch Medical Students Association (CMSA) Awards to Staff.

The staff member adjudged by students to have been the Best Consultant Teacher; 4th Year Jeremy Simcock; 5th Year Logan Walker; 6th Year Bryony Simcock.

The staff member adjudged by students to have been the Best Registrar Teacher; 4th Year Matthew Morreau; 5th Year Jessica Crampton; 6th Year Sai Tim Yam and Michael Sunderland.

The staff member adjudged by students to have been the Best House Officer Teacher; 4th Year Gavin Jones and Tom Williams; 5th Year Sam Peat; 6th Year Finn Mahon.

The teaching run adjudged by students to have been the Best Module; 4th Year Surgery/Gastroenterology/Oncology; 5th Year Advanced Medicine; 6th Year Selective/Elective.

The staff member adjudged by students to have been the Best Module Convenor; 4th Year Lynette Murdoch; 5th Year Tony Walls; 6th Year Laura Joyce.

The vertical module adjudged by students to have been the Best Vertical Module; 4th Year Clinical Skills; 5th Year Haematology; 6th Year Clinical Skills.

The staff member adjudged by students to have been the Best Vertical Module Teacher; 4th Year Sean MacPherson; 5th Year Sean MacPherson; 6th Year Alex McHaffie.

The staff member adjudged by students to have offered the most support; 4th Year Jen Van Dijk; 5th Year Libby Friel; 6th Year Libby Friel.


This award acknowledges staff for their demonstrated leadership at UOC.


Sarah Appleby for her outstanding leadership and contribution to the UOC and wider University of Otago Early/Mid-Career Researcher Groups, including being the EMCR Rep on the UOC and Divisional research committees.

Brenda Rogers for her willingness to step out of her comfort zone, learn new skills and processes on the fly, increase her hours when requested, and provide an exceptionally high level of admin support to cover for extended periods of staff absence in Departments other than her embedded Department.

Rebecca Bell for her leadership, knowledge, and educator experience on the 'Let's Test for HPV' study, which was recognized by the National Screening Unit and she was asked to take on a crucial advisor role in the development of educational modules for the national primary HPV screening implementation.


Recipient: Professor Chris Pemberton

This award acknowledges staff for their demonstrated sustained excellence in research which magnifies the values of UOC and has contributed to the health and wellbeing of Aotearoa New Zealand. This award notes their extensive dissemination of health evidence with most of their cited publications being first or senior authorship; with the majority of work being carried out on the Christchurch campus. These recipients continue to make an ongoing positive contribution to the UOC research environment through mentorship and leadership and are acknowledged by their peers as having significantly impacted what we know in their fields of expertise.

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