Media Advisory November 24

Conference to dish the dirt

Researchers will be digging the dirt on soils next week when the University of Waikato hosts the New Zealand Society of Soil Science Conference. About 180 delegates will gather over four days to hear from some of the world's foremost soil experts. The keynote speaker is Oene Oenema, a professor in nutrient management and soil fertility at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who will speak about the intensification of agricultural production in the European Union and the policy and public response to that. His keynote address is open to the public and takes place at 10.45am on Monday, December 1 in room S.1.04 at the university. Also open to the public is the Norm Taylor Memorial Lecture - being delivered by AgResearch principal scientist Dr Stewart Ledgard - at 1pm on Thursday, December 4 at the same location. His speech is titled Nitrogen Efficiency – From Plant to Planet. Other top speakers at the conference include Ravensdown chief scientist Dr Ants Roberts, Dr Carolyn Olsen, senior scientist form the US Department of Agriculture climate change programme office, Taupo farmer Mike Barton and the university's AgriBusiness Professor Jacqueline Rowarth.

Symposium looks for a better way with water

International experts from a range of backgrounds will discuss and develop a new idea for governing water at a collaborative symposium underway early this week. The symposium will hear from High Court judge Sir Eddie Durie – also a former Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court and Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal – about ideas around water governance in the context of a Waitangi Tribunal hearing which ruled Māori had "rights akin to ownership" around water. Chair of the symposium organising committee, University of Waikato Senior Law Lecturer Linda Te Aho, says Sir Eddie's proposal is likely to involve an independent body to allocate water resources for the benefit of all. Along with Sir Eddie, other high profile guests at the symposium include Samoa's Head of State His Highness Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi, French climate change expert Pierre Calame, New Zealand's first climate change ambassador Dr Adrian Macey and Dr Kapua'ala Sproat, director of the Environment Law Clinic at the University of Hawaii. The Law, Responsibility and Governance Symposium is being held at the Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development at Hopuhopu from November 23-25.

Snowboarding and study pay off

A gold medal win at last December's World Winter Universiade in Italy has led to more success for snowboarder and Waikato University student Natalie Good. She's one of just three university students around the world to be awarded an International University Sports Federation (FISU) scholarship for 2014/15, worth €3000 (about $4500). Currently working in London, the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar says she's keen to get back on the slopes, having spent the European summer finishing her law and management degrees, part of which included an internship paper working for Zespri International in Belgium, focussing on their intercompany contractual framework.

Waikato engineering students on track to success

The University of Waikato Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) team have their sights set firmly on success for the Formula SAE- Australasia competition in Melbourne next month. The competition, which will be held from December 11-14, includes 26 teams and involves static and dynamic events, such as design, business and cost presentations, quality tests and racing events. Team leader Sam Brien says last year's team set the bar high. They were placed sixth overall and were the top New Zealand team at the competition. The group of University of Waikato Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) students including fourth-year students Sam Brien, Todd Carswell, Josh McIntyre, Nick Milne, Ben Sharp and Phillip Ross, say the 2013 success provided them with a solid foundation on which to build. The design goals for this year were to improve handling, power delivery and ergonomics of the car while still keeping the design simple and reliable. The car will be air freighted to Australia later this week, followed by the team on December 3.

Electric van heading south for eRally

A team of University of Waikato engineering students will travel to Christchurch this week to showcase their electric van at New Zealand's first ever electric vehicle efficiency rally. The eRally event takes place on November 30 and is part of the larger Evolocity event run by the Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles (APEV). The Waikato University utility van was originally powered by a 1.3 litre petrol engine, which was replaced by an electric motor. The conversion process began last year with a group of fourth-year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) students and has been continued this year by a new group of fourth-year students including Stephen Gibbons, Louis Gillen, Oliver Lord and James Watkins. The team say that the drive down to Christchurch will be a great performance test run. They will drive the van as far as possible each day and then put it on a trailer for the rest of the day and charge it each night. It has a top speed of just over 100kmh with a range of more than 120km on one charge. The eRally involves a 21km course starting and ending at Christchurch's Motorsport Park.

Waikato IT girls leading the way

A group of students from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls have taken their interest in computer science to the next level, by creating an IT Girls Club as part of an ongoing partnership with the University of Waikato's Faculty of Computing & Mathematical Sciences. The club is an extra-curricular group that aims to create opportunities for girls interested in computer science careers.  The group visited the University of Waikato last week following a series of afterschool workshops taught by University of Waikato Computer Science tutor Nilesh Kanji. The weekly school visits were a chance for Mr Kanji to take the students through the steps and mechanics involved in creating video games in the Game Maker environment.

Café Scientifique in search of new planets with astronomer Dr Grant Christie

This evening, Tauranga's Café Scientifique will host Dr Grant Christie, astronomer at Auckland's Stardome Observatory and Planetarium. Dr Christie will provide an overview of new observational techniques that may allow the atmospheres of extra-solar planets to be studied, opening a pathway to the detection of life beyond the Earth. He will be noting both the surprises and the challenges of this rapidly developing field. Supported by the University of Waikato, Café Scientifique is a forum for discussing science issues, where anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. The next Café is today, November 24 at 7pm at the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club, 90 Keith Allen Drive, Sulphur Point, Tauranga. Entry is $5 and refreshments are provided. For more information please visit:

Conference of interest to policymakers

The InternationalAssociation for Contemporary Ethnography Across the Disciplines' third biennial hui is from November 25-28 at the University of Waikato. This methodological and methods conference circulating around the broad field of ethnography offers cultural understandings to policymakers. The conference theme is 'Sensual Landscapes in Ethnography', and many papers will explore the connections between lived sensory and sensual experiences and the contemporary world, between the personal and the public. Pre-conference presentations will include papers delivered in Spanish and Portuguese, workshops ranging from working with Harakeke plants, history, and context of Māori weaving; site-specific performance of research; participatory research; video ethnography practices; and civic engagement and study of sub-groups. Keynote presentations will discuss political engagement and performance; waka travels and rediscovery of ancestral knowledge; and a creative, participatory demonstration will show how performance can connect us to the land, traditions, and local sites. For more information, and to register, visit 

Philosophies in education

Delegates are coming from New Zealand and overseas to attend a philosophy of education conference being held in Hamilton this week, hosted by the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA) and organised by staff from the University of Waikato. The conference theme is education as philosophies of engagement. Conference convenor Dr Jayne White says the theme encompasses a wide intersection of philosophies and theories that draw attention to contemporary educational issues across a range of contexts and cultures. Guest speakers include Michael Apple, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and academics from Waikato University. The conference runs from November 22-25. For more information, visit

Coast to caves – changing environments the focus for Science Summer School

Investigating Waikato's coastal and cave environments will be the task for 40 top Year 12 students at the University of Waikato at the end of this month. The action-packed Hill Laboratories Waikato Science Summer School will run from November 30 – December 5, and gives the students a taste of what it can be like to study science and engineering at a tertiary level. The Summer School is an annual event run by Rotary District 9930 and Waikato University's Faculty of Science & Engineering, with sponsorship from Hill Laboratories. The week will begin with a field trip to explore Kawhia's coastline, the Ruakuri Caves and the Mangapohue Natural Bridge. The remainder of the week will be spent in the Faculty of Science & Engineering laboratories. Students from the following areas will be attending: Hamilton, Tauranga, Cambridge, Rotorua, Opotiki, Otorohanga, Morrinsville, Raglan, Te Kuiti, Whakatane, Whangamata, Reporoa, Waipukurau and Hastings.

Hookin' up – mental health and Pasifika students' intimate relationships

The Health Research Council (HRC) has awarded University of Waikato psychology researcher Byron Seiuli a postdoctoral research fellowship of $335,000 over three years to study the impacts that personal relationships have on Pasifika tertiary students' mental health and wellbeing.  Mr Seiuli, who will graduate with his doctorate in April next year, says Pasifika students often come to university or polytech with intrinsic Pasifika values, that sustain them in their studies, but they can be ill equipped to deal with life when things go wrong.  Mr Seiuli says teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates are higher in this group than the general population and so are suicide rates. He says understanding how social and cultural factors influence young people's intimate partner relationships will greatly assist in the development of effective, targeted sexual and reproductive health programmes and plans for better mental health care.

Double Gallipoli commemoration

In Hamilton, New Zealand and Perth, Australia composers are creating musical works to commemorate 100 years since the Gallipoli landings.  They will premiere at virtually the same time in Wellington and Sydney on April 22 next year, just before Anzac Day. Waikato University music lecturer Mike Williams is writing a symphony titled Letters from the Front, inspired by letters sent home by New Zealand soldiers, including his own great grandfather. The work will be performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with soprano Madeleine Pierard and narrator George Henare. Mr Williams says he has taken a contemporary art music approach to the composition, "using different methods of organising the pitch". The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has commissioned Perth composer James Ledger to write a piece for choir and orchestra titled War Music, featuring words by Australian singer songwriter Paul Kelly.

Resource Management Law Scholarship

University of Waikato arts and law student Rachael Witney is currently on student exchange in Canada but has managed to secure a Resource Management Law Association Scholarship worth $5000 to continue her study back in New Zealand next year. She'll be taking honours papers focussing on aspects of international environmental law. Her BA major is in geography, which she says fits in well with her interests in environmental, planning and resource law – the field she'd like to work in when she graduates.

Call to end media racism

A leading Māori academic has criticised the continuing misappropriation of Native American cultures and the perpetuation of colonial stereotypes in New Zealand media. University of Waikato Associate Professor Leonie Pihama says there has been an increase in the misappropriation of Native American culture and racist approaches taken when talking about Native American peoples.  The latest example, she says, was a travel article which describes the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn with little knowledge or insight into the impact of such violent oppressive acts upon indigenous peoples. Dr Pihama also hit out at an advertisement for burger chain Wendy's, labelled 'Holy Guacamole' in which Warriors rugby league players are dressed as stereotypical Mexicans and Native Americans.

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