Initiative strengthens ties between University and regions

The University of Otago’s commitment to southern communities has been underscored with the launch of a new strategic framework.

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch

The move is set to strengthen the institution’s partnership with Central Otago and the Southern Lakes districts by developing opportunities, enhancing relationships, and supporting Māori goals and aspirations.

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch says the University shares the region’s entrepreneurial spirit along with an understanding of the transformative power of education, research, respect for the environment and harnessing innovation that will build a better future.

“Our future will be working together to shore up world-class business and tech opportunities in Queenstown. It will be working together to improve the environment across the region and support the creative sector in Wānaka. And of course, we will continue to work with the people of Central Otago and Southern Lakes to improve health and social outcomes.

“Thousands of alumni live, or have strong connections, with Central Otago and the Southern Lakes districts. Regional growth means that we can play a significant role in educating the next generations of young people. Otago researchers have multiple connections here. To name a few, these include rural health, regenerative tourism, environment, ecology, water management, entrepreneurship, creative and performing arts, agricultural innovation, business and technology.”

The framework, launched this week, rests on foundations of collaboration with mana whenua and tangata whenua.

“Our overarching principle is to honour Te Tiriti, and this framework is a blueprint for how we aim to meaningfully partner with the southern region to support goals and hopes for te ao Māori,” Professor Murdoch says.

A visible sign of the University’s investment in the region is the Hākitekura facility planned for the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Subject to resource consent, Hākitekura will become a hub for think tanks, conferences and community events.

Significant work is also underway to partner with the backers of initiatives driving the creation of a ‘tech eco-system’ to help Queenstown Lakes diversify its economy.

Work to strengthen partnerships through collaboration with iwi can be seen in work such as the Te Manawa Tītī programme for Māori business students which has recently undertaken a field trip looking at Māori businesses in the region.

The University historically has a significant presence in the region through the large number of students on placement and the broad range of research projects underway.

“An important aim of the framework is to make sure that we harness the opportunities and meet the challenges that the next few decades present. All of this depends on the valuable relationship and shared goals we have with the people of Central Otago and Southern Lakes,” Professor Murdoch says.