Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Chair and Chief Executive’s Review

Richard Gordon (Chief Executive) and Jane Taylor (Chair)

Richard Gordon (Chief Executive) and Jane Taylor (Chair)

This has been a remarkable year for Landcare Research and we invite you to enjoy this annual report highlighting our performance and impact. We have seen an extraordinary development of new initiatives across the science sector – both more innovative and more collaborative than we have seen in previous years. We have also seen growing impact achieved by the research, science, and technology done by Landcare Research; and we have continued to forge valued new relationships with stakeholders, especially Regional Councils, Māori organisations, and among the general public in New Zealand.

In this introduction we will provide an overview of progress against the major pillars of the strategy we have been implementing since 2014, which are focused on our people, our partnerships, and the impact we create through our science. Financial resilience underpins our core strategy. Our financial performance in 2015/16 has been robust, notwithstanding the challenges that were common across the science sector and that impacted on our total revenue. We exceeded our return on equity target (6.7% achieved vs 5.0% budget) and our EBIT target ($2.7m achieved vs $2.1m budget).

Our people are Landcare Research, and we acknowledge first and foremost the skills, dedication, and great efforts they bring to their work. As usual, many have been recognised by their peers for the quality of their work. In particular, we recognise Dr Janet Wilmshurst for being elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, a well-deserved honour.

This year in particular has been both challenging and rewarding for our staff as they adapted to changes in the organisation and the science sector. Major effort by many staff has gone into winning the contestable research funds that enable us to make our contribution to New Zealand. The Government’s 2016 Budget injected welcome, additional science funding into several areas relevant to our work, including nationally significant databases and collections. At the end of the 2015/16 year we were seeing positive signals of success across several contestable funds: MBIE Smart Ideas programmes and Vision Mātauranga, National Science Challenges, and Regional Research Institutes.

The health, safety, and well-being of our people are paramount. As our work involves specific hazards in laboratories and remote locations we depend on the culture, experience, and expertise among our people and the training, processes, and tools we provide. In 2015/16 we commissioned an external review of our policies and practices and we brought staff, leaders, and directors together in a national advisory group to oversee enhancements. We will continue to strive in 2016/17 to provide a sustainable working environment in which our people can give of their best, enjoy their roles, and go home safe each day.

Our strategy since 2014 has been to re-position our expertise to ensure our science has impact where it is most needed. Emphasis in New Zealand has grown on issues of freshwater quality and therefore on land use, soils, and natural resource economics; on biodiversity protection and therefore predator control; on sustainable use of Māori land assets and therefore understanding land and biodiversity assets; and on engaging the public in science and therefore making science (and scientists) more accessible. To ensure we are best positioned to support these national interests we have created 15 new science roles and recruited staff who strengthen the capability and culture of Landcare Research.

Our strategy has also focused on enhancing the impact from our work. In essence, our work must be valuable, valued, and adopted by its users for it to have impact in society. Impact comprises a combination of social, economic, cultural, and environmental benefits. To enhance impact we have opened a debate with users and our staff about what makes science valuable and presented our initial findings to an enthusiastic international audience. Aspects seen as critical include co-design of projects and outcomes from the earliest stages, involving the users of our science; allowing head-space in our busy programmes for our staff to innovate and publish; and resourcing projects to sustain effort beyond the research to include uptake and support of tools and technologies in the market. We will develop this approach further in 2016/17.

Another strategic goal since 2014 has been to build our skills and relationships to support Māori in achieving their aspirations for their land. Māori groups increasingly want to understand their land and natural assets and options for their sustainable use and protection. During 2015/16 we have invested in a new senior Māori leadership role and have developed many new and exciting partnerships and projects. To these we bring our science with humility, acknowledging the world view and deep experience of the natural environment held by our Māori partners. We are especially proud to be working with iwi on the Whanganui River in the Te Awa Tupua project and with Maniapoto and other iwi on options for future land development.

A special development for New Zealand in 2015/16 was government’s launch of Environment Aotearoa 2015, the national state of environment report and ongoing initiative to release thematic information (land, water, etc.). This is central to our mission and Landcare Research has been pleased to play a number of roles, including facilitation of an important work stream to identify environmental indicators of relevance to the Māori world, Te Ao Māori.

Landcare Research hosts the New Zealand Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, which is one of eleven new Challenges that are re-shaping science and science user collaboration in New Zealand. While an initiative of this complexity (17 collaborating parties) and magnitude ($65m of new science funding over 5 years) takes time to organise, we are pleased to note the more innovative and strategic thinking and partnerships that have been developed. The Challenge is promoting the science of new predator-control technologies and ways of engaging with local communities. Both will be central to the new national goal of being Predator Free (possums, rats, and stoats) by 2050. The Challenge is also promoting new ways of engaging communities in achieving biosecurity goals in line with the national Biosecurity 2025 strategy.

Landcare Research is also contributing to other National Science Challenges: Deep South (climate impacts), Resilience to Nature’s Challenges (resilience), Sustainable Seas (Māori engagement), Our Land & Water (soils and land research), and Science for Technological Innovation. We are also a founding partner in the Lincoln Hub and delighted to note that 1 July 2016 saw the corporatisation of the Hub. The Hub will play a critical role in achieving additive value over and above the day-to-day, collaborative activities of the partners. Landcare Research has played a prominent role in attracting research investment by overseas multinationals, especially in the area of smart irrigation. The Hub will be central to our strategy of adding value in the primary (agri-business) sector. We look forward to the Hub taking off in 2016/17 under its new and very energetic leadership.

Landcare Research maintains, on behalf of New Zealand, the national collections of plants, invertebrates, fungi, and micro-organisms together with national databases of land, soil, and biological information. Our strategy has been to enable the wider use of the rich value in these assets, including the knowledge of our experts. In 2015/16 we have been successful across a range of projects, from identifying potential biosecurity incursions of national significance, to connecting our national soils data to the OVERSEER tool that is used widely for farm nutrient planning. Behind these examples have been significant developments in data accessibility and biological identification.

During 2015/16 we have seen greater involvement of the public in our work. From our innovative Naturehack 24-hour data-hacking event with Callaghan Innovation, to our nocturnal moth project with the Otago Museum and local schools (and many other projects), the public, and especially youngsters, have shown their deep interest and delight in the treasures of New Zealand nature and what can be done to sustain it for future generations. We are very supportive of the Nation of Curious Minds initiative and are pleased to have led several of its projects that engage the public in ‘citizen science’.

A further innovation has been the formation of the Manaaki Whenua Research Trust. We were delighted that the former director and Chair of Landcare Research, Sir Rob Fenwick, accepted the role of Patron of the Trust. The Trust has been set up specifically to provide innovative pathways for members of the public to contribute financially to our vision and to specific areas such as the national collections.

In closing this introduction, we reflect on a very positive year for Landcare Research in 2015/16 and look ahead to 2016/17. We have seen the Environment Aotearoa 2015 report clarify both the opportunities and challenges for New Zealand in managing our natural environment. Landcare Research continues to evolve in order to make the greatest positive impact it can with public resources to meet these opportunities and challenges.

Signed Jane Taylor
Jane Taylor
Signed Richard Gordon
Dr Richard Gordon
Chief Executive