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New Zealand Must Take Leadership Role in Pacific

9 July 2004

New Zealand Must Take Leadership Role in Pacific

Senior staff at Lincoln University believe New Zealand should take an international leadership role in co-ordinating sustainable development projects in the Pacific Islands.

Specialists in environmental management, ecology, Maori development, agriculture and the social sciences says there is mounting concern about the tendency for aid organisations, often based in Europe, to “parachute in and parachute out” after projects that are poorly targeted, uncoordinated and displace local authority systems.

The consensus was reached following discussions with visiting UNESCO leader Dr Walter Erdelen, Deputy Director of Science on the role of indigenous knowledge and science in sustainable development.

Dr Erdelen says most of the Pacific’s 7500 islands have immediate issues with energy, access to water, waste disposal, health services, education and literacy. The island nations will be among the first victims of sea level rise and should be at the forefront of research. Dr Erdelen says the importance of indigenous knowledge in sustainable development is recognised internationally, but has yet to translate into targeted programmes that understand local differences.

Lincoln University Vice Chancellor Margaret Austin says the University already has a sustainable development forum for establishing partnership projects, in areas such as ecological engineering and sustainable agriculture, but sees the need to do more.

“New Zealand’s location and reputation in the Pacific mean we are well suited to taking a high-level role in planning for sustainable development,” she says. “The diversity of Pacific Island nations must be recognised and we must strive for a system of aid delivery that recognises the local knowledge systems and decision-making processes in each area.

We must also acknowledge the importance of processes and planning that reflects the needs of the Pacific Island peoples. “Our Government should position New Zealand on the world stage as the country from which all sustainable development research and aid is co-ordinated.

No other country has the research experience or New Zealand’s record of neutrality and co-operation in the Pacific.” Lincoln University will consider further improvements in its teaching to reflect the importance of indigenous and traditional knowledge systems.

ENDS

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