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Instilling long-term thinking into NZ's DNA


Embargoed until 21 October 2009.

James Duncan Reference Library: Instilling long-term thinking into New Zealand’s DNA

Today the Sustainable Future Institute opens the doors of its new James Duncan Reference Library. Named after the former Chair of the Commission for the Future, Professor James Duncan (1921–2001), the library has been established to provide a record of long-term thinking in New Zealand.

Chief Executive of the Sustainable Future Institute, Wendy McGuinness, says: ‘Long-term thinking is something New Zealand often fails to value, so this library is important because it preserves and acknowledges the past efforts of future thinkers. The opening of the library represents a small step towards trying to instil long-term thinking into New Zealand’s DNA.’

The first systematic national programme for future planning began in 1967, with many New Zealanders becoming involved in the concept through the National Development Conferences of 1968 and 1969. It was as a result of these conferences that the Commission for the Future was established in 1976. Although the Commission was disbanded in 1982, the work continued under the not-for-profit organisation New Zealand Futures Trust (now Futures Thinking Aotearoa). The publications of both entities are available in the library.

McGuinness says she has been ‘greatly encouraged by the work of Professor Duncan and his team’, and cites Duncan’s book Options for New Zealand’s Future as an inspiration. The Institute’s aim is to pursue this work independently, looking forward fifty years, under the work programme known as Project 2058.

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‘Our collection has evolved as the Institute has grown,’ McGuinness says. ‘We realised that we had the beginnings of something unique, and believe it to be a resource in its own right, for those interested in thinking about New Zealand’s long-term future. There is something special about seeing a collection as a whole, being able to browse the shelves and follow the progression of ideas and thoughts over time.’

As well as the New Zealand Future Thinking collection, the library also features collections focusing on the work of international future thinkers and scenario planners; New Zealand history and society; books with a Māori focus, and a diverse collection of reference and general materials from New Zealand and around the world. The library will be open to the public by appointment, and is located in the Sustainable Future Institute office at Level 2, 5 Cable St, Wellington.

The Sustainable Future Institute is an independent think tank specialising in research and policy analysis. Based in Wellington, the Institute aims to provide relevant, accurate and comprehensive information that is accessible to all New Zealanders. More information, and copies of publications, can be found at


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