A circular economy for the wellbeing of New Zealand
Āmiomio Aotearoa is a transdisciplinary research collaboration hosted by the University of Waikato.
Āmiomio Aotearoa is a novel economic concept that is cyclical in nature and regenerative by design, keeping products, components and materials at their highest value at all times. Built on Mātauranga Māori and western science, the concept aims to move beyond the current linear extract-produce-use-dispose material and energy flow model of the modern economic system, which is unsustainable.
How will we achieve this?
Our research will address fundamental knowledge gaps through a multidisciplinary and collaborative research programme that combines existing and creates new areas of research excellence in materials science, engineering, energy, economics, kaupapa Māori, business, law and regulation, social science and public policy. The long-term research platform will play a critical role through connecting these research communities to develop transformative new knowledge and innovative solutions tailored to New Zealand’s specific geographic, economic, political and societal context.
World-leading research that will shift Aotearoa New Zealand to a prosperous society underpinned by production-consumption systems that optimise circular material flows, supported by renewable energy sources, to reduce resource consumption and environmental impacts, supporting sustainable development for the benefit of current and future generations.
Āmiomio Aotearoa is led by Professors Kim Pickering and Trevor Drage. The leadership team also includes Professors Les Oxley (Waikato), Conan Fee (Canterbury), Michael Walmsley (Waikato), and Barry Barton (Waikato).
The collaboration involves researchers from across disciplines at the University of Waikato, University of Canterbury, Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, Auckland University of Technology, University of Otago, University of Auckland, SCION, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, BRANZ Ltd, and a number of international partner organisations.
Research Leaders – University of Waikato
Waikato Centre for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing – Director Prof Kim Pickering
Centre for Environmental, Resources & Energy Law – Director Prof Barry Barton
New Zealand Institute for Business Research – Director A/Prof Eva Collins
Te Mata Hautū Taketake – Māori and Indigenous Governance Centre – Director Dr Robert Joseph
Waikato Experimental Economics Laboratory – Director A/Prof Steven Tucker
Research Capability Streams
Capability Stream 1. Innovative materials and material cycles
The circular economy draws on an industrial ecology perspective to close material loops efficiently and thus achieve a high recyclability to limit demand for virgin material inputs from non-renewable sources. To achieve this aim, our research will develop new knowledge and innovative processes to enable cyclic materials flows, including reuse, remanufacture and recycling, for both existing and new materials.
Capability Stream 2. Energy, utility services and asset life-cycle analysis and design
An evidence-based approach is needed to enable decision-making on the most energy-, utility- and asset-efficient cycles for materials. Our research will develop methods to analyse life-cycles for existing and future materials so they can be accurately modelled considering energy (thermodynamic laws and limits) and utility requirements, within realistic infrastructure, spatial (organisational, administrative and geographic), and temporal (short- and long-term) system boundaries.
Capability Stream 3. Business and economic models
The circular economy has gained traction within some New Zealand businesses because of their need to accelerate growth, enhance competitiveness and mitigate risks (e.g. retain their social license to operate). Our research will address the following questions: how can concepts within Māori business, such as Para Kore (zero waste), inform business model innovation? With New Zealand’s high proportion of SMEs, how can we trigger rapid structural change in resource use to achieve large improvements in rates of low-grade recycling and waste minimisation within business? How can viable strategies be scaled and targeted at resource-intensive industries (e.g. airlines, dairy)?
Capability Stream 4. Enablers of systemic change – Social Science, Education and Policy
The transition to a circular economy requires a systemic change that challenges institutional and societal norms, institutional arrangements, and legal frameworks. Despite the need for fundamental policy and societal shifts, the literature on the circular economy concept has remained largely silent on the role of people, both as individuals and members of collectives. Our research will put society at the centre of the circular economy by understanding the values, societal structures, and cultures that are both enablers of and barriers to its adoption.
Links to research currently underway
Inspiration for the Āmiomio Aotearoa Tohu (design)
The name ‘Āmiomio Aotearoa’ was gifted to us by Associate Professor/Manukura Tom Roa (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato).
Key elements incorporated into the tohu include reference to a takarangi (spiral), which promotes shifting states of energy, spiralling inwards and outwards. The koru represents growth and multiple koru are inclusive of Māori, NZ Europeans and other peoples. The swirling patterns between the koru represent the flowing waters, currents and swirls within the awa o Waikato (Waikato River), locating this collaboration within the University of Waikato and on the tribal lands of the Waikato people.
Āmiomio Aotearoa promotes the weaving of two knowledge systems: mātauranga Māori and western science.