9 Sep 2009

Petition launched to save London-based NZ centre

4:39 pm on 9 September 2009

Prominent New Zealanders have signed a petition calling for the London-based Centre for New Zealand Studies to stay open.

Emails seen by Radio New Zealand in August quote plans by the University of London's Birkbeck College to formally withdraw its involvement in the centre by November this year.

In 2008 the New Zealand Government gave $255,000 toward the centre's development. A memorandum of understanding was also signed ensuring that the university would protect the centre until April 2011.

An online petition calling for the centre to be saved has so far been signed by nearly 900 people, including author Witi Ihimaera, director Roger Donaldson and playwright Roger Hall.

Organisers of the petition say if the centre is disbanded, New Zealand will lose not only an extraordinary archive but a valuable sphere of national endeavour and scholarship.

The centre was opened in 2007 by former prime minister Helen Clark as a unique academic facility focusing on New Zealand culture, identity and history.