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Te Arawa FoMA appoints Senior Resident Scientist

PRESS RELEASE (25 July 2011)

Te Arawa FoMA appoints Senior Resident Scientist

One of the aims of Te Arawa Federation of Maori Authorities (FoMA) is to help its members advance their aspirations for economic development of their ancestral lands.

Some Maori owned trust lands are very productive and are currently used for sheep and dairy farming, horticulture, forestry and other land uses. Some lands are not so productive and they are considered as ‘marginal lands’. The latter needs attention.

Productivity of ‘marginal lands’ can be substantially increased by using alternative sustainable systems such as biological farming/forestry. An example is the utilization of marginal lands for growing bio-energy crops/trees and producing high value products such as Manuka honey. In order to achieve this, ‘science and evidence based’ decision making is essential. Te Arawa FoMA will provide this as one of the new services to their member organizations.

To provide science and research support, Te Arawa FoMA has appointed Dr Guna Magesan, a senior scientist, as its Resident Scientist. Dr. Magesan will head the science requirements which will help Te Arawa FoMA develop initiatives from its Incubator Program.

“The primary role of this appointment is to liaise between science communities (research institutes and universities), regulatory authorities (e.g. regional councils) and the Maori community farmers,” said Mr Malcolm Short, Chairman of the Te Arawa FoMA.

“We have invited Dr Magesan as a Resident Scientist for a number of reasons,” he added.

Dr Guna Magesan has been working with the Rotorua Lakes and Land Trust (RLLT) – a joint venture between Te Arawa FoMA and Rotorua/Taupo Province of Federated Farmers – for nearly two years on the Vallance Project. The Vallance Project investigates how biological farming systems can play a role in reducing nitrate leaching from farms into waterways, while keeping farming profitable.

He is the coordinator for the forthcoming national conference on biological farming systems with the theme "Towards Sustainable Farming – by farmers, for farmers” to be held at Rydges Rotorua on 27-28 October 2011.

Dr Magesan came to New Zealand over 20 years ago for his PhD degree at Massey University. He then worked for three Crown Research Institutes: as a post-doctoral fellow at Hort+Research (now Plant & Food) in Palmerston North, as a scientist at Landcare Research in Hamilton, and as a senior scientist at Forest Research (now Scion) in Rotorua.

He is also known for his community work, especially coordinating New Zealand Hindu conferences and organising Hindu festivals such as Deepawali (Festival of Lights) and Holi (Festival of Colours), which have brought the Maori and other communities closer. In 2007, New Zealand Hindu conference was inaugurated by then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt Hon Helen Clark and in 2008 by respected Te Arikinui King Tuheitia, the Maori king. That was a landmark in the history of New Zealand and race relations.

Dr Magesan was nominated among 100 Global Indians in 2010, in recognition of his work for the community, especially with Maori. He is an international coordinator of Global Indian Scientists and Technocrats (GIST) forum, a knowledge exchange platform for over 200,000 Indian scientists and technocrats outside India. This forum works with policymakers towards a holistic approach towards sustainable development.

“Dr Magesan has developed an excellent reputation by demonstrating his talent and ability in promoting science and work in the community, especially with Maori people,” said Mr Tom Walters, executive member of Te Arawa FoMA.

“He is passionate about taking practical science to Marae-based groups. He fits well with our thinking and objectives. Having him as an in-house science adviser will be good for us. This is the first time ever such a position has been created by our organisation”.

Recently, after Dr Guna Magesan presented a paper on “Biological farming systems and nutrient leaching” at the “Options and Tools” conference organised by Te Arawa FoMA in June, a few more farmers, encouraged by the value of scientists directly involved with Maori organisations, joined Te Arawa FoMA.

“It is widely expected that New Zealand and India will sign a Free Trade Agreement early next year.

This opens a big opportunity for Maori businesses. Dr Magesan has a good network and connections in India, he could help us taking Maori businesses to India,” said Mr Tom Walters.

“An opportunity to network in India will present soon enough, our representatives will be attending the Fourth International Conference and Gathering of the Elders of Ancient Cultures from 3rd March to 8th March 2012, at Haridwar, India.”

Dr Magesan acknowledges that it was his work for Hindu community, and the senior scientist job at Forest Research (now Scion), that helped to build good relations with Maori community in Rotorua. His work with Maori community started in Hamilton, with late Hare Puke, then the Chairperson of Tainui Trust Board.

“I have a passion for both scientific research and community wellbeing, especially with indigenous people,” said Dr Magesan.

“My ideal job is to combine these both. The opportunity has come now”.


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