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Thursday 22 September 2022 4:13pm

The University of Otago is strengthening its partnership with Central Otago and the Southern Lakes district through the launch of a strategic framework to develop opportunities and enhance relationships with the region.

The strategic framework supports Māori goals and aspirations and underscores the University’s commitment to collaborating with southern communities.

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch says the University shares the region’s entrepreneurial spirit along with an understanding of the transformative power of education, research, respect for the environment and harnessing innovation that will build a better future.

“Our future could be working together to shore up world-class business and tech opportunities in Queenstown. It could be working together to improve the environment across the region and support the creative sector in Wānaka. And of course, we will continue to work with the people of Central Otago and Southern Lakes to improve health and social outcomes.

“Thousands of alumni live, or have strong connections, with Central Otago and the Southern Lakes districts. Regional growth means that we can play a significant role in educating the next generations of young people. Otago researchers have multiple connections here. To name a few, these include rural health, regenerative tourism, environment, ecology, water management, entrepreneurship, creative and performing arts, agricultural innovation, business and technology.”

The framework, launched in Queenstown on 20 September, Wānaka on 21 September and Alexandra on 22 September, rests on foundations of collaboration with mana whenua and tangata whenua.

“Our overarching principle is to honour Te Tiriti, and this framework is a blueprint for how we aim to meaningfully partner with the southern region to support goals and hopes for te ao Māori.”

A visible sign of the University’s investment in the region is the Hākitekura educational facility planned for the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Subject to resource consent, Hākitekura will become a hub for think tanks, conferences and community events.

Significant work is also underway to partner with the backers of initiatives driving the creation of a “tech eco-system” to help the Queenstown Lakes diversify its economy.

Work to strengthen partnerships through collaboration with iwi can be seen in work such as the Te Manawa Tītī programme for Māori business students which has recently undertaken a field trip looking at Māori businesses in the region.

The University historically has a significant presence in the region through the large number of students on placement and the broad range of research projects underway.

“An important aim of the framework is to make sure that we harness the opportunities and meet the challenges that the next few decades present. All of this depends on the valuable relationship and shared goals we have with the people of Central Otago and Southern Lakes,” Professor Murdoch says.

Current initiatives:
• Hākitekura development – a facility to enable engagement and to extend the reach of Otago research
• Whakatipu Hangarau Trust - not-for-profit partnership including University, MBIE, North Ridge Partners and other key stakeholders “who aspire to diversify the Queenstown Lakes District through building a vibrant technology sector”
• Support for the QLDC economic diversification project e.g. Home for Healthier Business
• Research relationships and citizen science e.g. Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre (ALREC) based in Wānaka
• Mahu Whenua – the University has been active there since 2015. The latest work includes planting a block of 1,000 hectares for land regeneration, research, teaching, and offsetting the University’s air travel carbon emissions
Catchments Otago (Research Theme) works with communities to find solutions to local environmental, social and economic challenges

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