Despite the challenging economic climate, and some hard decisions facing the University of Waikato, I offer my congratulations to Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford and his senior management team for their commitment and adherence to the overall goals and Vision of this university.
Significantly, work has carried on in refining the distinctiveness of Waikato, as part of living the Vision of Excellence, International Connectedness and Distinctiveness. It is clear from the outcomes we see throughout the university that the focus has been on maintaining and developing our expected levels of academic and research excellence, while making some hard business decisions about the operations that support outstanding teaching and learning.
Tainui remain among our most important stakeholders and I have been pleased to see our relationship with this central iwi continue to develop during the past 12 months. Of particularly significance is the University's decision to set aside 21 April each Year as Kīngitanga Day. This was announced by the Vice-Chancellor at the Kīngitanga discussion forum attended by Kingi Tūheitia and designed to celebrate 150 years of Te Kīngitanga as well as discuss the future opportunities and challenges of the movement.
Recruiting and retaining Māori students and delivering quality educational outcomes relevant to Māori development priorities remains a primary goal in our Strategic Plan, and we value the continuing work of Pro Vice-Chancellor Maori Professor Linda Smith and her office to encourage Maori recruitment and to enhance the student experience of both Maori and non-Maori students within the umbrella of our Maori distinctiveness.
Last year we were honoured to welcome new kaumātua Rewi Rapana of Tuwhare Pā Ngāti Haua Werewere and Ngāti Raukawa. Rewi was nominated for the position of University kaumātua by Dr Hare Puke, and this nomination was confirmed by King Tūheitia.
In this current economic climate, sustainability is a key driver. We must operate a financially sustainable organisation in order to provide robust tertiary services for our region and to contribute to a sustainable community which by definition includes relevant tertiary education. At the same time through research, teaching and internal operations, the university champions environmental sustainability, particularly relevant given the agricultural nature of the Waikato.
This commitment is evident in a significant amount of Waikato University research output. This includes the team helping Fonterra's New Zealand milk powder plants reduce energy consumption as part of its company-wide energy reduction project, sustainable agriculture and agri-business that are included in a new graduate diploma being offered at the University and the well-attended Sustainable Waikato public lecture series held in the middle of 2008
As the University's vision also acknowledges, we are increasingly aware of our role on an international stage. We continue to benchmark ourselves against the best in the world, look with the pride on the growing number of international students – particularly in the first year of their degrees - and know that most of our graduates will travel, live or work overseas at some point in their lives.
The university is expanding our international presence with research outputs such as the monitoring buoy designed here in a project lead by Dr David Hamilton that is being used to help monitor water quality on a Chinese lake providing more than five million people with drinking water. It is also reflected in the partnership between the University's technology department and commercialisation arm WaikatoLink, and its equivalent at one of China's top universities, Tsinghua University which is laying the foundation for more effective market access into China.
Last year the Vice-Chancellor and I continued our programme of meeting international alumni, and were very encouraged by the high level of positions our graduates are in all over the world. As well as ensuring we remain in contact with our alumni, these visits form part of the conversation around the understanding of philanthropic contributions. With traditional funding sources - including student fees, government funding and research grants - falling short of the levels of strategic investment necessary to achieve our Vision, we know we must continue to look for other options. Donations and commercial opportunities are of growing importance and continue to be a much greater focus.
It is imperative that we continue to maintain momentum with regards to our major initiatives and capital projects because they will ultimately help our outstanding academic staff deliver internationally competitive educational and research outcomes. We also know we must continue to enhance the student experience, and construction of the new state-of-the-art student centre which begun late in 2008 will contribute to this in no small way, as well as giving a clear message about our commitment to sustainability with its planned Australasian-leading green rating
The opening of the new Research Hub this year has formed a single centre for University research and commercial services. Some 25% of revenue comes from research and research-related activities and WaikatoLink, has established 12 start-ups and joint ventures with a collective value exceeding $200m since 2002.
Last year I looked forward to an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders in the Bay of Plenty and particularly the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. We have certainly achieved our aim of understanding the strengths and interests of this region – and the enhanced partnership offerings of the University and Polytechnic mean we are able to listen and respond to the needs of the business community and people of the Bay.
It was with great sadness that we saw the passing of two significant contributors to the life of the University. Hare Puke, our Kaumātua since 2000, had a lifetime of commitment and service which has been recognised and appreciated at the highest levels. The awarding of the University of Waikato Medal in 1994 and an Honorary Doctorate in 2004 were testament to the high regard in which he was held by staff, students and the wider University community.
We were also saddened at the loss of a well-regarded and committed member on the Council, Graeme Weld. Graeme was a steadfast contributor to the University particularly bringing a vast local knowledge of the Bay of Plenty and I valued his insights into this region particularly.
On Council, long-serving Councillor Eleanor Barton stepped down after many years contribution, and we welcomed Maharaia Paki in her place. To them both, and to my other colleagues on Council my thanks for your expertise and support, and your commitment to the university.
Thank you particularly to Rob Pringle for the past four years as head of Finance Committee, and to Peter Schuyt who has taken up the role.
Welcome to our new Waikato Student Union President, Ben Delany, and my thanks for a job very well done to outgoing President, Moira Neho.
Finally, to Professor Crawford, his Deans, senior managers and all staff, both academic and general - congratulations on the achievements of the past year and your commitment to the university going forward. The Council and I are confident that together we will see through the external challenges ahead of the university and continue to build on our strengths to achieve our strategic goals and our Vision.
Rt Hon. Jim Bolger ONZ
Chancellor, University of Waikato