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Students Encouraged To Catch Knowledge Wave

The University of Auckland and the New Zealand Government are giving secondary school students the opportunity to help shape New Zealand¡¦s future.

As part of the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference to be held in Auckland, the University is running a nationwide senior secondary schools essay competition, offering winners a chance to participate in the high-powered conference.

Co-hosted by the University of Auckland and the Government, the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference aims to map a path for New Zealand¡¦s transition to a knowledge society.

University of Auckland Vice Chancellor Dr John Hood announced the essay competition today (Thursday 5 April), in which students are asked to submit a 1500-word essay on ¡¥The kind of Knowledge Society I want for New Zealand¡¦.

Winners of the essay competition will have the opportunity to attend the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference and participate in discussions with international business, political and academic leaders on how New Zealand can become a Knowledge Society.

¡§Participation by young people in the conference is essential for it to represent all sectors of New Zealand,¡¨ says Dr Hood. ¡¥As the future leaders of this country, we want to hear their views and ideas on what a knowledge society is and how we can become one.¡¨

Dr Hood says a core component of the conference is its aim to encourage the contribution of New Zealanders at all levels of society, both at home, and abroad.

¡§Our goal is to create a national conversation on how New Zealand can move forward as a knowledge-based society and seize new opportunities that will create jobs, wealth, and expand our existing offerings.¡¨

¡§This essay competition is an attempt to do this at secondary-school level. We want to hear from our your people on what kind of a society they want to create for New Zealand.¡¨

An information pack on the essay competition will be sent to all secondary schools this week with information on the competition and how to enter. Students or teachers wanting more information should phone 09-373-7599 x4371 or visit the Knowledge Wave web site at

Launched in February, the Catching the Knowledge Wave Conference aims to raise New Zealand¡¦s economic performance and develop strategies that will enable New Zealand to embrace and benefit from the social and economic shifts that are occurring globally.

Media inquiries:

Reuben Munn Professor Chris Tremewan
Baldwin Boyle Group Catching the Knowledge Wave project team leader
Tel. (09) 486 6544 University of Auckland
Tel. (09) 373 7599 ext. 6934


The Knowledge Wave Project has as its primary objective the development of strategies and commitment for New Zealand¡¦s transition to a knowledge society.

It will bring together government, business, higher education and research, media, community organisations and other sectors in the achievement of this goal.

The project is a joint initiative of the New Zealand Government and the University of Auckland, supported by leading members of the business community, and has a brief to seek contributions from a wide cross-section of New Zealand society.

Its high point this year will be a national conference, entitled Catching the Knowledge Wave, from August 1 - 3, 2001, in Auckland. It will be co-chaired by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and Dr John Hood, Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland.

The conference will be a key event in a national process of establishing consensus and gaining commitment for further action. It will attempt to identify the initiators of growth, the impediments to transformation, and the issues of social cohesion underlying rapid change.

An interactive website focused on the core themes will enable the public to make contributions in the months leading up to the conference and contains many related databases and links:

Core themes for the conference will be:

„h Innovation and Creativity
„h People and Capability
„h Economic Strategies
„h Entrepreneurship
„h Social Cohesion and the Digital Divide

International speakers will be addressing these themes along with leading New Zealanders.

A key element of the conference will be New Zealanders who have risen to positions of leadership and distinction internationally. They will be invited back to contribute their insights. Young people will also be specially invited to participate.

The conference will be highly interactive and will seek wide public engagement. Parallel seminars and other public events, in-depth print media and television coverage, and other methods for public contributions are planned.


By Dr Chris Tremewan, Pro Vice-Chancellor, The University of Auckland, and Chairman of the Knowledge Wave Project Team

Knowledge is a new force driving the world¡¦s most successful societies, replacing the old stores of wealth - land, industrial machines, capital - as the new currency of social and economic success.

It is a trend creating global shifts which are as profound as they are swift and, after 40 years of economic under-performance, New Zealand cannot ignore the implications of this new era of knowledge-driven growth any longer.

Between 1960 and 1997, New Zealand¡¦s output per head of population grew by 60 per cent, compared with an average 150 per cent-plus on any comparable country basis. The need for a new strategic approach to regaining our prosperity and competitiveness is clear.

There are good, recent examples to learn from. Countries such as Finland, Ireland, and Israel have all viewed their once similar situations as ¡§constructive crises¡¨ and responding with nationally accepted strategies. They have been rewarded with high growth rates and a renewed sense of common purpose from such leaps of imagination.

New Zealand can do the same, but needs to fashion its own vision. It is time to reinvent and reinvest in ourselves to ride this wave of knowledge-based social and economic opportunity.

That is why the University of Auckland has initiated the Catching the Knowledge Wave project. Backed by the Government but with high level input also from Opposition parties, business, academic, and community leaders, the project is a call to action.

It asks questions such as: what policies does New Zealand need for a culture of innovation, enterprise, and lifelong learning? What are the new roles for government? How do we make most of the knowledge we already have? How do we guarantee that the best new ideas become promising new businesses? How do we accelerate the pursuit and use of our knowledge so that outcomes are achieved as quickly as possible?

The Knowledge Wave project is committed to starting to answer those questions.

This process does not amount to a simple quest for greater material wealth, although New Zealand needs to grow faster if it is to retain its First World status.

Rather, it is about creating a politically stable, socially cohesive society that New Zealanders will be proud to live and work in, return to from overseas, and where the citizens of other countries will seek to live, let alone invest.

Nor is this vision solely about information technology. Although its impact is huge, the arrival of IT can be likened to the way that electricity transformed peoples¡¦ lives early last century - a spur to development rather than development itself.

IT speeds up and deepens the transfer of knowledge, dramatically expanding our capacity to build new understandings, communities, industries, and markets. Yet most of its tools will soon be as unremarkable as a 60-watt bulb, a background convenience which helps us all to do remarkable things.

In short, the knowledge wave is upon us. What matters now is how well this country, with its over-dependence on low-value agricultural commodities in a world of low-cost competitors, can ride the wave.

Making knowledge a key driver of the New Zealand economy is a route to getting off the downward agricultural price spiral, as an increasing number of innovative New Zealanders are already recognising.

Sign-posting the future are companies like Wellington¡¦s Compudigm, which makes visual maps of complex data; Southland¡¦s Topoclimate, finding micro-climates on dairy farms for tulips and Japanese wasabi; or New Zealand Dairy Ingredients, extracting high value food and medical additives from low value milk. Peter Jackson¡¦s ¡§Lord of the Rings¡¨ production relies on local creativity harnessing powerful software, while Dunedin¡¦s Animated Research Ltd made the America¡¦s Cup intelligible to a global television audience of landlubbers.

Then there are new medical therapies such as those being developed by NeuroNZ, a company spun out from The University of Auckland; or the discovery of a natural alternative to anti-biotics for throat infections by the BLIS strategic alliance with Otago University. Kiwis tapping local sensibilities to influence international culture are more evidence of the same trend, from the clothes of Karen Walker to the songs of Neil Finn.

These are the building blocks of a knowledge society. We need to create far more of them.

In some respects, New Zealand is well-placed to embrace knowledge as a new engine of social and economic development. We are a relatively ¡§wired¡¨ nation and governments have recently begun to focus on knowledge and innovation policies.

Perhaps most difficult to appreciate is how knowledge has become such a force in successful societies. Unlike most goods and services, knowledge is powerfully self-perpetuating. It cannot be exhausted or overused. Instead, using knowledge routinely creates new knowledge.

Knowledge-based industries tend to produce specialised goods that are priced on their sophistication rather than their cost of manufacture. They increasingly recognise the value of cultural, ethnic, aesthetic and lifestyle differences. National identities are shaken up, but diversity is also more highly cherished.

While often expensive to produce, much new knowledge also becomes freely available. When governments ensure that knowledge is accessible, it has a democratising impact, creating a force for social as well as economic action.

This kind of society would explicitly nurture the growing importance of our intangible and cultural assets. It would reframe how we regard knowledge so that new opportunities for social and economic participation begin to open up.

We need to find the settings of a creative national framework that is right for our country, while accepting that unless we reinvigorate our creativity, innovation, and learning, we will continue to slip behind the countries we once thought of as poor.

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