The University of Waikato was proud to host the 4th Aotearoa Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit Series over two days on campus last week (9-10 February) supported by co-hosts Waikato Tainui, Te Pūkenga, and the Waikato Wellbeing Project.
The Summit brought together more than 200 people from across Aotearoa and the Waikato Region, including business leaders, the not-for-profit sector, academics, policy experts, iwi leaders, public servants, local and regional government officials.
Participants explored key issues related to sustainability and wellbeing within the Waikato Region using the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework. The Summit advanced the importance of Māori, Indigenous and community perspectives. They heard from a range of passionate experts including Hinerangi Raumati (Chair of Tainui Group Holdings), Sir Peter Gluckman (Chief Science Advisor 2009-2018), Paula Southgate (Mayor of Hamilton) and Riria (Missy) Te Kanawa (National Industry Lead, Māori at KPMG) as well as Ganesh Nana (Chair of the Productivity Commission).
University of Waikato Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability, Professor Lynda Johnston played a key role in organising the Summit.
“It was a pleasure to bring such a diverse and passionate group of people together to discuss how we can build a better, fairer Aotearoa,” says Professor Johnston.
“Much of our kōrero was centred around the notions of sustainability and wellbeing and how incorporating Mātauranga Māori and Pacific perspectives are crucial when designing local solutions, be it in the context of mental health, making our cities more biodiverse and easier to get around or safeguarding water quality.”
Participants were also reminded that the work really does start and stop with people and the pandemic has undone a lot of progress in this regard, breeding distrust, division and inequality on a massive scale.
“It was certainly telling when two of the country’s top scientists and economists flagged ‘social cohesion’ and the ‘social contract’ as priority issues for us all right now.” says Professor Johnston.
“What became clear by the end of this event is we need to prioritise investing in our communities in ways that will re-build trust and connection. Only then will we have the platform for the many other changes needed.”
The event also served as a reminder of why we need to maintain the momentum when it comes to local solutions for global problems, recognising the nuanced understanding community stakeholders bring to the table.
It was also a wakeup call to heed the warnings laid bare by our scientific community, however frightening and inconvenient they may be - a message that was hard to ignore as the region bunkered down to prepare for Cyclone Gabrielle.
The Summit concluded with a field trip Xtreme Zero Waste at Whāingaroa, Raglan where participants were treated to a special tour of the community recycling facility.