Twin sisters Hannah and Nyssa Payne-Harker grew up in Dunedin but say they discovered “a city within a city” when they chose the University of Otago for their undergraduate study. Now these sustainability advocates are studying towards their Master of Planning degrees, which they believe will take them to the world.
With a list of sustainability credentials “as long as your arm”, including positions in the Dunedin City Council Youth Action Committee, Generation Zero youth climate change action group and the University of Otago student-led Sustainability Research Project, Hannah and Nyssa have firmly established their interest in protecting the environment.
As undergraduates they took different routes toward turning that interest into a career. Hannah gained a Bachelor of Science in Geography, while Nyssa achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Politics. However, each felt an Otago Master of Planning degree was the next logical step.
Planning brings skills into practice
Nyssa says, “The Master of Planning brings into practice the academic Politics skills I learned to help make a better future for the environment. We're in the first year of Planning which is mostly papers. Next year is thesis time; right now I'm interested in heritage planning but it's early days.”
Hannah says, “I like the way Planning involves developing policy but still works around issues to do with the natural environment. Next year, I'm interested in looking at something to do with natural resource management, combining my scientific knowledge and planning skills with my desire to build a better future.
An interactive environment
“In the Masters of Planning you really do get an interactive environment that's open to lots of discussion. The staff are really encouraging and they will help you do what you're passionate about.”
The pair see their study and their time at Otago as a stepping stone to becoming involved in inspired and informed change-making in the wider world.
Nyssa says, “With our Student-Led Sustainability Research Project we were connected with a university in Sweden thanks to the Matariki partnership Otago has with several universities world-wide.”
Hannah adds, “At Otago you feel like you're connected to the rest of New Zealand and the world.”