New Pacific research programme launched in NZ
A new research programme focussing on development, investment and foreign policy in the Pacific, aims to influence decision makers on the future of the region.
A new research programme focussing on the Pacific has been launched in New Zealand and aims to help future decision makers.
The New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research is a collaboration between the Universtiy of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology and the University of Otago.
It's being funded with US$5 million over five years by the New Zealand government.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, says the idea is to get more hard-headed research done into things that make a big difference in the Pacific. He says for example there needs to be more work done around areas like land use and land tenure challenges, and the way in which development money is spent in the region.
MURRAY MCCULLY: "I'd like to think that the factual information that the Institute is able to produce is going to have a significant bearing not only on the aid expenditure that partners like NZ promote, but also on the decisions that Pacific leaders make, about where they want those partnerships to go."
The head of Pacific Studies at Auckland University, Associate Professor Damon Salesa, has been appointed as the Institute's director. He says the funding will allow the universities to work on about four to five research projects a year. He says some of the projects may not immediately resonate with Pacific communities, but they are things that are urgent for many Pacific nations.
DAMON SALESA: "For instance, we've got a project on sovereign wealth funds, which many people will not know Pacific nations have, but these are the kind of big, long term investments Pacific nations carry. Some of them for retirement funds, and some of them to carry over budget issues. So what do we do with those? How do we manage them? This is an enormously important question for the future, and it's not something that researchers have been actively thinking about."
AUT's head of Pacific Advancement, Walter Fraser, says it's important that New Zealand has strong advice on matters of foreign policy in the Pacific region.
WALTER FRASER: "Because New Zealand's policies in the Pacific affect a lot of Pacific Islanders it's important for them to actually get robust advice and guidance on how they will affect the lives of people in the Pacific. I think having a partnered approach to this where some of the people whose lives it's going to affect, can feel like they can be part of informing New Zealand is important."
Damon Salesa says the Institute will be distinctive in the way it's focussed on Pacific research leadership, and training more researchers with strong Pacific connections.
DAMON SALESA: "A lot of our researchers are Pacific researchers, and all of them have deep, deep connections to the Pacific. They're not fly-by-nighters, they're not here for personal gain or their own interests. Another difference is we're interested in building capacity, research capacity."
Over the next five years, the three universities research projects will include looking at donor contributions in the Pacific and their impact on the region. The Institute will also analyse Pacific labour markets and the skills needed for economic development, as well as study private sector investment in the region.
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