Our Strategic Focus
The value of our science
Complex challenges face New Zealanders in managing our natural resources sustainably. We have developed a framework to assess the internal and external value of our research, to understand how we can more effectively respond to this complexity, and increase the impact of our work1. The framework has provided a means of learning from our own experience and identifying how to best meet the needs of stakeholders, with a view to applying key learnings across all our research and development activity. This process has influenced our thinking about the scope of our research, and how we undertake it, as well as the ways in which we engage with our clients and other stakeholders to facilitate adoption and impact.
In developing the value framework, we conducted a series of case studies with stakeholders in the Natural Resources (government) and Primary Industry Sectors and with Māori partners. These cases studies have highlighted the value of working with our science users ‘on the whole journey’ from concept to adoption, and of building the ‘headroom’ for innovation into our projects that are otherwise tightly constrained by contracts. In particular, we have identified a growing demand for fully-integrated, applied research programmes spanning the environmental, social, economic and cultural elements of natural resource management. Part of our planned work will be to strengthen internal practices and culture to support the delivery of more integrated research. We have also identified a set of national priorities to which Landcare Research can add particular value through its research leadership, science excellence and expertise in delivering integrated research (see sections below).
Enhancing environmental information
Demand is growing for readily available, high-quality environmental information. New Zealanders, who manage natural resources, and policy and management agencies, need accurate information about our environment and the pressures on it. The growing need for evidence-based information reflects a shift in the resource management system to set ‘hard’ environmental limits. New Zealanders also need information to participate in an informed debate about balancing environmental goals with social, cultural and economic aspirations. Landcare Research has a strong track record in providing environmental information to support policies, plans, regulation and land management practices. We have played a leading role in developing national biodiversity and carbon monitoring systems, as well as fundamental information on New Zealand’s land resources, soils and vegetation. Landcare Research is also the custodian for S-map, the national soils information system, which provides key information to manage land-use effects on water quality.
In the coming year, we will continue to deliver data-driven analysis and advice to support implementation of the Environmental Reporting Act, regional council plans and regulations, and forthcoming changes to the RMA. We will work closely with central government agencies and regional councils to develop indicators for environmental reporting. Our expertise in carbon accounting will support MfE’s reporting on national greenhouse gas emissions, and our national leadership in biodiversity research is also well-placed to support any future collaborative process under the RMA to better protect New Zealand’s valuable native species and landscapes.
Improving freshwater management
New Zealand is currently undertaking wide-ranging reforms to how fresh water is managed. The reforms aim to address deteriorating water quality and water demand outstripping supply in some areas, and balance different interests and values in water. Increasingly, the reforms are focused on managing the effects on water of land-based activities. Landcare Research has significant expertise in improving water outcomes, including national leadership in soils, sediment and erosion, integrated catchment management, wetlands, riparian management, modelling the economic and environmental impacts of policies, and knowledge of mātauranga Māori and cultural values. We lead a national research programme to help councils and communities use collaborative processes to set objectives and limits for water, in line with the National Objectives Framework. In the coming year, we will build on this work, increasing our focus on the primary sector, and contributing expert advice to the 2016 suite of freshwater reforms currently in development. We also offer niche expertise to support irrigation development through our soil moisture sensing and mapping technology, spatial modelling of environmental and economic effects of irrigation schemes, and our work with others to model the impacts of different irrigation water allocations on reliability of supply, leaching and profit.
Sustainable primary sector growth
Increasingly, Landcare Research’s work supports sustainable land management in the primary sector, regional development initiatives to lift land productivity, and Māori aspirations to unlock the value of Māori-owned land. Our expertise supports growth in New Zealand’s native honey sector, land owners who wish to more sustainably develop marginal land, and Māori agribusinesses who have cultural and environmental – as well as economic – aspirations for their land (see Vision Mātauranga section).
The same research expertise we use to help set policies and regulation is also increasingly relevant to private sector interests wishing to manage their land-based activities within regulatory limits, and to meet market and community expectations for sound environmental practices. In particular, our expertise in soils, erosion and sediment management, pests and invasive weeds, riparian management, wetlands and biodiversity restoration, management of weeds and pests, and resilience to climate will be key to supporting sustainable land management on-farm. To this, we can add the expertise of Enviro-Mark Solutions, our subsidiary, which specialises in carbon and environmental management certification and related services for private sector clients. We will work closely with primary sector organisations and explore joint initiatives with key partners such as Māori agribusinesses, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and FAR. We recently invited Federated Farmers onto our Outcome Advisory Panel that helps us set our strategic priorities.
Predator control and biodiversity protection
We continue to provide important underpinning science to achieve and demonstrate freedom from bovine TB, working with OSPRI. An increasing focus of our work is to develop and apply new, more effective and socially acceptable tools to manage predators and other pests that threaten New Zealand’s valued species and landscapes. Our national leadership in predator, pest and weed control – and assessing the benefits of this for biodiversity outcomes – supports national campaigns, such as the Department of Conservation’s Battle for our Birds, and other large-scale initiatives such as Cape to City, Zero Invasive Predators, Taranaki Mounga, Kiwis for Kiwi, Reconnecting Northland, and the Pan-Regional Predator Control initiative.
New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge
New Zealand’s economic, environmental and cultural prosperity are heavily dependent on our biological heritage ‒ elements of which are in decline or at risk from exotic weeds, pests and diseases. The Biological Heritage National Science Challenge (BioHeritage Challenge) mission is to reverse this decline through national partnerships that bring together researchers from across institutions and disciplines to transform the way we manage biodiversity, improve biosecurity, and enhance New Zealand’s resilience to harmful organisms. Landcare Research is the host for the BioHeritage Challenge. We are contractually responsible to MBIE for delivery of the Challenge work programme. Over $25 million has been committed to the Challenge over the first five years (2014–19), with substantial further funding aligned from Challenge partners, including Landcare Research. We lead two of the three Challenge research programmes and provide operational support to the Challenge governance and management. Seventeen parties are collaborating in the BioHeritage Challenge ‒ the most of any Challenge. The parties span the research community, government agencies, NGOs, business, Māori and the public. A Challenge Parties Group, Kāhui Māori, Science Advisory Panel, and an End User Advisory Panel provide advice to the Challenge on strategic direction, Vision Mātauranga and user priorities.
The Challenge and MBIE have agreed on a set of committed and aspirational targets: indicators of success towards achieving the Challenge’s Intermediate Outcomes. The Challenge has now refined a set of priority areas of research, representing critical issues where research-based solutions should have a major impact on delivery of these Intermediate Outcomes and the Challenge Mission. Five projects have started, with a further four being developed. The focus for the 2016/17 financial year is to expand the number of projects supported by the Challenge, including through a contestable process, and to broaden and deepen engagement with stakeholders.
Landcare Research has had a long association with Māori through our relationships with iwi and hapū in projects such as the sustainable harvest of seabirds and of indigenous timber. Our integration of ecological, cultural and economic research combined with the long-term sustainable development ethos of our work, means our research is aligned to the intergenerational and holistic worldview of Māori. A 2013 MPI report ‘Growing the Productive Base of Māori Freehold Land’ estimates c. 1 million hectares of Māori freehold land could be brought into productive pastoral use, highlighting the opportunity for Landcare Research to help lift the performance of these under-utilised land resources. We will continue to work closely with organisations such as MBIE, TPK, LINZ, FOMA and Te Tumu Paeroa to add value to cross-sector work supporting the development of Māori land through the use of our land information and tools such as WhenuaViz. We will also focus on knowledge transfer to Māori collectives and agri-businesses, particularly in regard to sustainable land management and governance. Landcare Research is one of only a small number of providers selected to deliver training and advice through MBIE’s Māori Innovation Fund in support of the ‘He Kai Kei Aku Ringa’ Action Plan.
Engaging directly with Māori decision makers on Māori land and with kaitiaki responsibility over natural resources will be another key focus for this year. Landcare Research will work with iwi, Māori landowners and others to identify research priorities that will provide tools and information to make more informed decisions. Priority areas identified to date include land and soil information, soil erosion and flood mitigation, provenance and future proofing mānuka honey production, biodiversity, pest and weed control and improved catchment health and water quality. Landcare Research will engage in a process to identify research priorities with Māori partners to co-design research proposals. Partnership with Māori will also be reflected in the co-implementation of research projects including Landcare Research’s commitment to building Māori science capability. Landcare Research is also committed to building upon its internal expertise in mātauranga Māori. Two new appointments will be made to support our commitment to mātauranga Māori research and an investment plan to support Māori PhDs and summer internships. Increasingly, we are working with Natural Resources Sector agencies, such as MPI, to identify how we can support regional development initiatives, many of which add momentum to natural asset development by Māori interests.
The Lincoln Hub
The Lincoln Hub partners2 will collectively deliver innovative land-based research, education and precinct opportunities to customers to grow a sustainable land-based sector in New Zealand and internationally. The Hub is a key part of Landcare Research’s strategy to create impact from our science through working with the primary sector as it aims to operate within environmental limits and meet the expectations of its customers and local communities. Our science and experience with the regulatory environment are very relevant to these needs. Working with the Hub partners we will create opportunities in three strategic areas. The first is to engage international agri-sector customers in the Hub. Landcare Research is taking the science lead on an early example with a global irrigation company. Such engagement will connect our science with the global cutting edge, accelerate technology development in New Zealand and take our technology to the world. The second strategic aim is to accelerate multi-disciplinary and co-design science projects. Landcare Research intends to replace major infrastructure in 2017/18 using a design that enables co-location of partner science staff and science users in project-based teams for the duration of projects. This is an especially important strategy for the NZ Biological Heritage NSC, which we host at Lincoln. The third strategic aim is to create new educational programmes in partnership with Lincoln University that integrate students and professionals with the science and research activities at Landcare Research.
Manaaki Whenua Research Trust
Helping Kiwis solve NZ’s environmental problems
Increasingly, New Zealanders want to help protect our unique native species and environments, which are an important part of our natural heritage and what it means to be a New Zealander. Through the Manaaki Whenua Research Trust, all New Zealanders can support critical research to solve New Zealand’s worst environmental problems. Donations to the Trust help Landcare Research to deliver research in areas important to New Zealand’s future, as well as support talented New Zealand researchers.
The Trust was established in March 2016 to support world-class environmental research to develop new innovations, technologies and tools to
- protect New Zealand's treasured species and ecosystems
- enable more sustainable management of New Zealand soils and landscapes
- improve weed and pest control
- manage the impacts of climate change and
- maintain and develop the Nationally Significant Collections and Databases that Landcare Research looks after on behalf of all New Zealanders.
Footnote  AgResearch, Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research, Lincoln University and DairyNZ