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Waikato researchers win National Science Challenge funding

19 August 2016

Naomi, Patrick and Priya

L-R: Dr Naomi Simmonds, Dr Patrick Barrett and Professor Priya Kurian have been successful in securing funding for their research on the Maketu Estuary.

A team of University of Waikato social science researchers have been successful in securing funding for a Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge project.

Dr Patrick Barrett, Professor Priya Kurian and Dr Naomi Simmonds of the University’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences have received a grant of nearly $300,000 from the Challenge’s new Innovation Fund for their research on the Maketu Estuary.

The Waikato project is the only social science grant among the eight successful scientific research projects announced by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce this week – which included work being conducted by NIWA, University of Otago, Cawthron Institute and Elemental Environment.

“The Sustainable Seas Challenge team looked for proposals that would improve environmental outcomes while adding value to our marine economy,” says Mr Joyce.

The Waikato group’s project will map the complex participatory processes that led to a unique community-backed marine ecosystem restoration strategy for the Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary. Dr Barrett says that the proposal to restore the estuary has been achieved through a long process of engagement between diverse stakeholders and iwi/hapū, each with different worldviews and competing interests.  

“The project will help us develop principles for inclusive decision-making and foster trust among industry, Māori, scientists and the wider community. This can inform how we manage marine ecosystems elsewhere in the country,” says Dr Barrett.

The research will draw on social science and Kaupapa Māori methodology to understand the process of designing sustainable collaborative arrangements in the context of the marine environment.

The objective of Sustainable Seas is to enhance the use of marine resources, while ensuring the marine environment is understood, cared for and used wisely for the benefit of all. The Challenge’s Innovation Fund offers grants to support projects up to a value of $150,000 per year for two years.

Sustainable Seas is one of New Zealand’s 11 National Science Challenges. These Challenges are designed to take a more strategic approach to the government's science investment by targeting a series of goals, which, if achieved, would have major and enduring benefits for New Zealand.


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