Three leading New Zealand universities came together to form the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) earlier this year. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is funding the institute with a contribution of $7.5 million across five years. The Pacific Cooperation Foundation, a founding donor partner, will provide $200,000 a year for the next five years.
The institute — a collaboration between University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology and the University of Otago – was launched in March 2016, tasked to deliver a world-class research programme focusing on Pacific development, investment and foreign-policy issues. It brings together the multi-disciplinary expertise of the three universities as well their networks of Pacific researchers. The NZIPR is hosted at the University of Auckland (UoA).
Associate Professor Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa, Head of Pacific Studies UoA, is NZIPR director. In an interview with Pacific Periscope, Professor Salesa said economic development would be a key focus of the institute’s research projects. “The NZIPR will be undertaking a range of research projects, many—perhaps even most—of which will be interested in sustainable economic development, considered in the broadest sense,” he said.
Mapping aid, considering land use, private investment, labour markets and sovereign wealth funds are areas in which the institute will initiate work. “[This] shows that our initial round of research projects is heavily interested in trade, investment and sustainable economic development,” Professor Salesa added.
Explaining the background of the institute and its work, Professor Salesa said, “The NZIPR comes out of the understanding that New Zealand, as a Pacific nation itself, has a unique contribution to make when it comes to understanding, and working in, the Pacific.
“This is very obvious in Auckland, one of the great Pacific cities, a home to hundreds of thousands of Pacific people, their lives, cultures and languages. One of the contributions the NZIPR will make, is to leverage these understandings and relationships, and deep capacity in Pacific research, in a way that is designed to have relevance and impact on the way that we do things—not only in NZ, but in the Pacific.
“Examples of this can be seen in the NZIPR tackling the thorny issue of land in the Pacific, or thinking through best practices for Sovereign Wealth Funds, which are two of our first year’s projects. One of the things we see the NZIPR doing, is bringing Pacific research and researchers into closer engagement with communities, policy-makers and other stakeholders.”
Earlier, UoA Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon was quoted as saying, “The NZIPR will be a national and global focal point for research in the Pacific region, a chance to highlight and develop innovative research and engagement…
“The NZIPR is a ground breaking initiative to develop research and understanding about the Pacific and its opportunities and challenges. The collaborative model of the NZIPR means it is committed to research that is anchored in the relationships that come from New Zealand’s unique position as a Pacific nation itself, a country with a rich Pacific heritage.”
The institute will also work with associated universities and organisations including the University of Hawai’i, the University of the South Pacific, Australian National University and Peking University. NZIPR hopes to become the focal point for the sharing of knowledge in the Pacific region to governments, businesses, community groups and other stakeholders.