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PM Launches Catching The Knowledge Wave Project

16 February 2001

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Dr John Hood
University of Auckland



A significant initiative to seek new and widely agreed paths for New Zealand’s social and economic development will take place this year, culminating in a major international conference in Auckland at the beginning of August, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, announced tonight.

The Catching the Knowledge Wave project is an important opportunity to lift our national sights and move beyond familiar, sometimes stale, debates about the direction that New Zealand is heading in,” said Helen Clark in a speech to The University of Auckland Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner at Old Government House, in Auckland.

“It is a chance to look with fresh eyes at the kind of society we want to create in a world where knowledge is replacing the old sources of wealth and power as the driving force in the world’s most successful societies.”

The highlight of the project will be an international conference in Auckland from August 1 to 3, to be co-chaired by the Prime Minister and the Vice-Chancellor. It will be a highly interactive conference which will produce recommendations for improving New Zealanders’ quality of life by responding to the “knowledge wave” in ways that will promote prosperity, social equity, and international competitiveness.

“Most New Zealanders yearn for a nation which is confident, progressive, more prosperous, tolerant, and which cares for its people,” said Helen Clark. “They seek a society capable of sustaining its First World status with well-educated, innovative citizens who choose to stay in New Zealand because it is the best possible place to be.

“That vision must be realised in a way that is right for New Zealand,” she said. “It may draw on the experience of other small countries where economic and social transformations have occurred in response to their previously uncertain outlooks.

“In practical terms, we need to be commercialising more of our new ideas than we manage at present, ensuring that we have the highly educated population and the technology to realise our innovation vision.

“We need to start embracing innovation in everything we do already, actively communicating the exciting potential of this process of transformation, and bringing our traditional, commodity-based industries into the new economy too.

“I am pleased to assist this effort to produce concrete new policy ideas to invigorate the policy processes which are already under way,” Helen Clark said.

The Vice-Chancellor emphasised that the Catching the Knowledge Wave project will stimulate national awareness of the issues and seek contributions from all sections of the community.

Dr Hood said the initiative clearly distinguished between the commonly used phrases ‘knowledge economy’ and ‘knowledge society’.

“It seeks proposals to meet the social as much as the economic challenges posed by the knowledge wave. That is why we are determined to make this process as consensual and inclusive as possible,” he said.

The Knowledge Wave project was also seeking constructive bi-partisan engagement, said Dr Hood. He welcomed the involvement on the Organising Committee of the Hon Pete Hodgson, the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, and the Hon Maurice Williamson, the National Party’s spokesman on tertiary education, information technology, and research, science and technology.

“Across the Tasman, it is already clear that both major Australian parties are making the pursuit of knowledge central themes for this year’s federal election.”

“This is an ambitious project,” said Dr Hood. “But with commitment from all New Zealanders who care about this country’s future, I believe that we are well-positioned to catch the knowledge wave. All we need is the courage to back ourselves to do it.”

The Catching the Knowledge Wave website will be live from Saturday, February 17, at: www.knowledgewave.org.nz

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