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Wellington to be centre of eco-restoration

1 July 2005

Wellington to be centre of eco-restoration research

New Zealand’s world-leading reputation in restoring native ecosystems has been given a major boost thanks to Government support for an innovative new conservation programme led by Victoria University.

At the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary today, the Minister of Education, the Hon Trevor Mallard, and Victoria Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh, will sign an agreement for developing eco-restoration capability.

The project, which has attracted $872,500 in funding from the Tertiary Education Commission’s Innovation & Development Fund, will see Victoria, in partnership with the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and Massey University, establish a teaching laboratory at the Sanctuary and launch a new Master of Science degree in eco-restoration.

Eco-restoration is a developing interdisciplinary field that links science and social science, cultural understanding and management fields by focusing on the relationships between humanity and ecosystems. It aims to restore the ecosystems, as an integral component of endangered species protection and recovery, and to maintain them economically, environmentally and culturally in a sustainable manner.

Instead of saving individual species by isolating them, firstly in zoos where they have often became sad curiosities, or on small offshore islands where they were difficult to access and often not part of the original island ecosystem, eco-restoration of mainland ecosystems will enable species to be maintained in their natural habitat, mainly by protection from pests.

Professor Pat Walsh welcomed the support of the Government and the Tertiary Education Commission for this innovative project.

“Victoria has a strong tradition of teaching and research in the field of biodiversity and our School of Biological Sciences has a track record of innovation in conservation science. As students from our new programme graduate, there is the potential to develop a new ‘knowledge-based’ export industry that will hopefully lead to the establishment of a centre of international research excellence in eco-restoration.”

“The degree programme will be unique in New Zealand, combining the expertise of several universities and Government agencies and tapping into the cutting-edge practical knowledge of the staff of the nearby Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. This combination of theoretical and hands-on knowledge will produce a programme that will be attractive to students both nationally and internationally.

“New Zealand does not have a deep human history, where thousands of years of culture are readily on display. But our native flora and fauna are unparalleled in their unique diversity, with a history that far surpasses anything humanity has ever created. Eco-restoration aims to more than just protect what we have left, but to turn the clock back and recover ecosystems so our native plants and animals have a sustainable future.”

Sanctuary Chief Executive Nancy McIntosh-Ward is excited about the partnerships. “Karori Wildlife Sanctuary offers a decade of world-leading practical experience in establishing and operating an urban-based sanctuary. One of our fundamental objectives is education and we’ve worked with Victoria and Massey universities for many years and are delighted to extend this partnership.

This postgraduate degree will undoubtedly grow the knowledge economy and establish an export-focused, eco-restoration industry, which will enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a country with a conscience for the vitality of flora and fauna.”

Professor Russ Tillman, Head of Massey University’s Institute of Natural Resources, welcomed the opportunity to partner with Victoria and the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in this exciting development.

“A project such as this, that sees Universities working together with dedicated community organisations such as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is exactly what the Government is seeking. Massey University will bring to the partnership complementary expertise in key areas of ecosystem restoration.”


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