Media Advisory November 22

NEW RESEARCH INSTITUTE TO TACKLE HARD QUESTIONS

An ageing population, increasing ethnic diversity and the growing divide between regional and urban New Zealand are some of the key elements shaping the country’s future. Policymakers can look forward to a better understanding of the issues with the launch of a new research institute focussing on demographic and economic analysis at the University of Waikato this week [Wednesday November 24]. The National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) brings together demographers from the university’s Population Studies Centre, economists from Waikato Management School and public policy experts from Wellington-based Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust. NIDEA Director Professor Natalie Jackson is an expert on demographic issues in Australia and New Zealand and vice-president of the New Zealand Population Association. She says the new institute’s research will focus on the interface between population and economy. “NIDEA builds on Waikato’s international reputation for demographic study and research. Our Population Studies Centre has a 30-year record of collaborative research across the university and with research institutes all over the world, and with the establishment of NIDEA we’re creating a virtual community of top national and international researchers in the field.”

“BID BOT” GOES GLOBAL

An app knocked up in a couple of hours by a Waikato University student to automatically buy random items on TradeMe has attracted attention from Iran to Russia. The “bid bot”, created by computer science PhD student Paul Hunkin, gets $1 a day to spend, and searches TradeMe every evening for newly-listed items in its price range. It then picks the rarest item in the list to bid on and buy, and tweets what it’s bought. The programme is set up with a one-in-three chance of making a purchase, and can “save” what it doesn’t spend. Hunkin got the idea from an xkcd cartoon (xkcd.com -- the tech community’s go-to humour site). “TradeMe recently released software which lets people connect with the site,” he says. “Then I stumbled across the comic and thought that’s genius, I should do that.” Since launching the “bid bot”, Hunkin has had 190,000 visitors to his blog, and his followers on Twitter have leapt to more than 4,300. “It took me two years to get to 100 followers on Twitter; then I got 2,000 literally overnight,” he says. “So it looks as if I’ve created a bot that’s bigger than me.”

KOI CARP TRAP TRIAL SUCCESSFUL

A trial of a koi carp trap at Lake Waikare near Huntly has proved successful with more than 1500kg of fish caught in two and a half days. Pest fish, including koi carp, are a major problem in the Waikato River and have been linked to the collapse of aquatic plants, loss of native biodiversity, algal blooms and reduced waterfowl production. The trap was placed in the Lake Waikare fish pass in August and was operating fully this month. A total of 777 fish were caught in two and a half days. Waikato University researcher officer Dr Adam Daniel, who undertook the original study into the movements of the pest fish, says these traps have the potential to control fish in the Waikato’s lakes and wetlands where koi carp have dominated for years.

TIKANGA EXPERT NAMED TO MĀORI LANGUAGE REVIEW PANEL

The head of Aka Tikanga at the University of Waikato’s School of Māori and Pacific Development has been appointed to Te Paepae Motuhake, the independent panel reviewing the Māori language sector and strategy. Te Kahautu Maxwell was named to the panel by the Minister of Māori Affairs, Pita Sharples, following the resignation of Pem Bird, who was recently elected President of the Māori Party. A highly acclaimed orator and kapa haka composer and performer, Mr Maxwell is an expert in Te Reo Māori and tikanga. Earlier this year, Mr Maxwell was named as one of 11 winners of the 2010 national teaching excellence awards, taking the inaugural Ako Aotearoa award for excellence in tertiary teaching in the Kaupapa Māori category.

THE WAIKATO IN WRITING

Writers and academics will gather at the University of Waikato this week for a two-day symposium entitled Writing the Waikato. Organised by the Text and Translation Research Unit in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the symposium will encompass early settler and missionary texts and literature, colonial fiction, historical writing, the role of photography, the language of advertising, and the new Māori urban discourse - all in relation to the Waikato from the Mangatawhiri Stream to Lake Taupo. As part of the symposium, four writers will speak about their work and the Waikato - they are Vince O'Sullivan, Ken Arvidson, Murray Edmond and playwright Albert Belz, who is this year's writer-in-residence at Waikato University. Writing the Waikato will be held on November 26-27 at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. For more information visit the Text & Translation Research Uni.

 IN SEARCH OF THE COLOSSAL SQUID

Dr Steve O'Shea will discuss the fascinating research of the colossal squid in a presentation next week in Tauranga. Organised by the University of Waikato’s Centre for Continuing Education, the presentation will also outline the dangers facing various marine species in New Zealand because of unsustainable fishing practices and other environmental threats. Dr O'Shea is New Zealand's leading expert on squid and is a Senior Research Fellow in the Earth & Oceanic Sciences Research Institute at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). As a marine biologist, Dr O'Shea is a recognised authority on the taxonomy and systematics of cephalopods (octopus and squid). He also has considerable experience in environmental impact assessments, conservation, fisheries surveys, biodiversity studies, documentaries, marine invertebrate fixation and preservation techniques, and museum curation. The presentation will be held at 6.30pm, Thursday November 25, at the Bongard Centre, 200 Cameron Road, Tauranga. Entry by gold coin donation and bookings are essential. For more details and to register visit the Continuing Education website.

STUDENTS PERFORM THREE SISTERS

Anton Chekhov’s Three Sistersis a challenging play with a big cast. It spans five years and involves several complex storylines and equally complex characters. Waikato University Sir Edmund Hillary Scholars creative and performing arts students are tackling it for their major project for the year. Director and senior lecturer at Waikato Gaye Poole says she wanted a play that would get all the actors involved at a deep level. “And this play fits the bill because it doesn’t have one or two leads, it’s an ensemble piece and the characters are highly individual, rich and idiosyncratic.” The Hillary students come from Theatre Studies, Music, Dance and Computer Graphic Design for the production that will take place November 22-27 at the University’s WEL Academy of Performing Arts.

FORUM TO DISCUSS TAURANGA’S FUTURE CHALLENGES

Looking at the challenges ahead and discussing how we can individually and collectively make a positive difference will be the themes of a forum being held in Tauranga next week. Offered by the University of Waikato’s Centre for Continuing Education, the forum will be presented by John Fletcher from Transition Tauranga, which is part of the global Transition Towns movement. Mr Fletcher has been involved with Transition Tauranga since its inception in 2009 and is a firm believer in local people creating local solutions. Transition Towns originated in the UK and has grown to include 1000 towns around the world. Focusing on sustainability and community resilience it aims to prepare towns for the changes that lie ahead particularly climate change and the end of the era of 'cheap oil'. The movement covers specific areas such as transport, energy, food, local currencies, time-banking, housing and farmers' markets. The forum leads with a 50-minute film, which introduces the concept of Transition Towns, and will then discuss the different groups currently operating in Tauranga and the projects underway. It will be held at 6.30pm, Wednesday December 1, at the Bongard Centre, 200 Cameron Road, Tauranga. Entry is $5 and bookings are essential. For more details and to register visit the Continuing Education website.

UNI MUSIC TO BE HEARD IN IRELAND

A Waikato University music senior lecturer will have one of his compositions feature on Irish Radio RTE Lyric FM. Michael Williams’ piece Kala Danda for alto flute and backing track is one of two pieces chosen from the new CD Breathe by Irish flautist William Dowdall to feature on the radio show Nova. The CD is a combination of Irish and New Zealand composers with Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Associate Professor Martin Lodge also having a piece on the CD. Nova is a radio show which focuses on contemporary music and Mr Williams says he feels honoured to have his piece chosen and is particularly pleased that New Zealand music, especially from the University of Waikato, is making an impact on the other side of the world.

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