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New research institute to tackle NZ's future

Media Release
November 22, 2010

New research institute to tackle hard questions about New Zealand’s future

An ageing population, increasing ethnic diversity and the growing divide between regional and urban New Zealand are some of the key elements shaping the country’s future.

Policymakers can look forward to a better understanding of the issues with the launch of a new research institute focussing on demographic and economic analysis at the University of Waikato this week [SUBS: Wednesday November 24].

The National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) brings together demographers from the University’s Population Studies Centre, economists from Waikato Management School and public policy experts from Wellington-based Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust.

NIDEA’s director is Professor Natalie Jackson, an expert on demographic issues in Australia and New Zealand and vice-president of the New Zealand Population Association. She says the new institute’s research will focus on the interface between population and economy

“NIDEA builds on Waikato’s international reputation for demographic study and research. Our Population Studies Centre has a 30-year record of collaborative research across the University and with research institutes all over the world, and with the establishment of NIDEA we’re creating a virtual community of top national and international researchers in the field.”

Motu director Howard Fancy says NIDEA will combine the strengths and networks of Motu and the University of Waikato to create an international centre of research excellence.

“New Zealand is part way through a substantial demographic transition whose considerable social and economic consequences have yet to be properly appreciated, but which may require a significantly different policy approach,” he says.

“NIDEA can contribute to addressing this challenge by recognising the important interdependence between demographic, economic and social processes, and by supporting strong research, teaching and policy communities which can utilise and apply the research.”

NIDEA researchers include Motu’s Dr Steven Stillman who is currently analysing the impact of homeownership on social capital. The Marsden-funded research project involves examining the relationship between the location of state owned housing, the quality of local amenities and house prices, and the relationship between homeownership and parental participation in school board elections.

NIDEA’s Dr Tahu Kukutai has also secured Marsden funding to research the contentious question of counting populations by ethnicity. In this country, debate continues over whether ‘New Zealander’ should be recognised as a legitimate ethnic group in the census. Dr Kukutai’s research aims to help resolve questions like these by collating census and other data for 200 countries over the past 25 years to identify conditions that enhance or suppress ethnic distinctions in the census.

Dr Kukutai’s research comes under the umbrella of Te para one te tū mai nei (Māori and indigenous futures), one of the Institute’s five interconnected research themes.

The others are:
• New Zealand 2050 (An ageing New Zealand)
• New Zealand’s regions and communities (A regionally and ethnically diverse New Zealand)
• New Zealand’s individuals, families and households (A socially informed New Zealand)
• New Zealand’s oceanic and global context (A globally engaged New Zealand)

NIDEA’s research programme is supported by the NIDEA Demographic Laboratory, which aims to build research and modelling capacity in the field through teaching and supervision at undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels, and through delivery of end-user workshops. Waikato University is New Zealand’s only provider of demographic qualifications – and one of only four in Australasia.

NIDEA is the first of four new research institutes to be launched by Waikato University over the next few months to join the long-established Wilf Malcolm Institute for Educational Research. The others are the Institute for Business Research (IBR), the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and Te Kotahi Research Institute for Innovation, Well-being and Inspiration (IWI).


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