Living Laboratory tackles complex issues

A New Zealand University could become the focus of global attention tackling a number of issues relating to environment, agriculture, horticulture and sustainability, if its ambitious project accrues the desired results.

As well as coordinating efforts with the farming community, the new project hopes to attract international experts and their involvement in research.

The Massey University initiative has created a virtual living Laboratory around its 2000ha Manawatu Campus in Palmerston North, which should create a new path in pursuit of sustainability.

Dr Allanah Ryan, a sociologist at the University’s School of People, Environment and Planning said most problems were complicated and dynamic.

“If you change a part of a problem in one area, it could create another problem in another area. It is therefore important to have a holistic approach,” she said.

Dr Ryan, who chairs the Project, hoped that it would bring together researchers and those interested in the study of greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient run-off and rural subdivision.

She agreed that while sustainability is “the new common sense,” there should be a clear pathway for sustainable development to make a difference globally.

“We are exploring new ways of learning and working with partners in the public and private sectors. We are bringing farmers from across New Zealand to do research with us. This builds a stronger bridge between what the University does and what happens on farms,” Dr Ryan said.

She hoped that the findings at the Laboratory would develop into models that could be used anywhere in the world.

The Project includes Massey’s ‘Ecological Economics Research Centre,’ to explore links between the environment, economy and people.

Dr Ryan said the Centre aims to enhance the New Zealand environment in ways that allow the economy and the people to prosper.

The Centre is currently working on sustainable ecosystems within the Ngati Raukawa rohe (a traditional Maori base in the Waikato region).

“This project demonstrates how western knowledge and Kaupapa Maori Science can work together. A new programme, ‘Manaaki Taha Moana: Enhancing Coastal Ecosystems for Iwi,’ extends the focus to Bay of Plenty iwi, with support from Central and Local Governments,” she said.

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