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Tuesday 13 June 2023 10:45am

Wellington Science City - lab image
(Left to right) Students Lucy Picard and Olivia Damiano working in a laboratory on the Newtown campus with Fenella Rich, a Laboratory Scientist in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.

The University of Otago welcomes new funding in the Government's 2023 Budget for a health and wellbeing research hub as part of plans to develop a 'Science City' in Wellington.

The Government announced it would allocate $450 million in capital funding to create three new research hubs: a Health and Wellbeing Corridor with a new Pandemic Research and Response Institute to prepare the country for future emergencies; a National Centre for Research on Oceans, Climate and Hazards; and a Research Technology and Innovation Park.

The health and wellbeing hub will share expertise and resources between the University of Otago, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), the Malaghan Institute and Callaghan Innovation.

It will be based on a corridor from the Otago University campus on the Wellington Hospital site in Newtown to Kelburn, where Victoria University and the Malaghan Institute are located.

The Government's announcement comes as the Wellington campus develops a long-term strategic plan and options for its Academic Block which was closed in August 2021 for seismic reasons. The University is expecting to reopen its main Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre on the site early next year and is continuing to develop teaching spaces in other buildings on the site in the interim.

Dean and Head of the Wellington campus, Professor William Levack, says while plans are in the early stages, the new Science City funding creates the opportunity for shared research facilities to be built on the Newtown site.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie, says the funding is a positive sign.

“The Budget announcement of a significant investment into the research infrastructure in Wellington will bring some welcome benefit to Otago's health sciences campus in the capital, and will allow greater collaboration and cooperation with other institutions there in health research and pandemic response.”

Professor Levack says staff at the University of Otago, Wellington, already have significant collaborations with many individual researchers and research groups at other universities and in government and non-governmental organisations.

“This funding will help take these collaborations to another level and will increase opportunities for interdisciplinary work that bridges biomedical, clinical, translational and public health research.

“Ultimately, this investment will help improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, enable us to develop our future research workforce and help us prepare our Government and communities for the next global pandemic or health emergency.”

The funding was announced by the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, the Hon. Dr Ayesha Verrall, who says the hubs, while based in the Wellington region, will benefit New Zealand as a whole.

She says the next step will involve finalising a business case for the programme so construction can begin.

Kōrero by Cheryl Norrie, Communications Adviser, University of Otago, Wellington.

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