Cawthron Institute Centenary Speech

Research, Science and Innovation

Tēnā koutou e ngā māta waka,

Tēnā koutou e te hau kāinga Te Ātiawa, tēnā koutou.

Tēnā koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te rā.

No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.

Ata mārie. It is an honour to host you all at Parliament today, to celebrate 100 years of the Cawthron Institute, New Zealand’s largest independent science organisation,  originally focused on agriculture, then forestry, now a world leader in aquaculture, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. What a truly marvellous achievement.  

Thank you to all those who have made the trip over from Nelson. I for one am delighted that we can celebrate this significant occasion in person. Happy Birthday.

I would like to take this opportunity to particularly thank and acknowledge:

  • Volker Kuntzsch, Chief Executive of Cawthron
  • Meg Matthews, Chair of Cawthron’s Board of Directors
  • John Palmer, Chair of Cawthron Institute Trust Board

Your mahi, and that of all those who have gone before you has guided Cawthron towards a century-long legacy of delivering world-class science and innovation for a better Aotearoa.  Of course – that would not be possible without the incredible passion and dedication of the hundreds of researchers, scientists, technicians, and support staff, past and present.

I think we can all agree that there was incredible foresight in Thomas Cawthron’s vision, all those years ago, of making science freely available to the public to ensure a better, more connected,  future for us all. I imagine, if he were here today, he’d be pleased to see Cawthron Institute in such good health, employing nearly 300 scientists, from 35 countries.

When it comes to identifying emerging areas of research to assist industry, Cawthron’s pursuit of knowledge has been exemplary. Crucially  addressing  one of this Government’s overriding economic aims, – moving to a strong, resilient economy that is sustainable, highly productive, not prone to major shocks, and that meets our climate change obligations – especially as we continue our economic recovery from COVID- 19.

I want to congratulate Cawthron on the steps you are taking, not only to support industry, but also to improve the health of our environment, linking closely with the issues that matter to everyday New Zealanders.

The success and growth over time of your Aquaculture Park highlights the importance of industry connections, and has led to the recent opening of your National Algae Research Centre, last year by the Prime Minister. It’s great to see your research areas expand while supporting the growth of an exciting new seaweed and algae industry. I’m particularly interested in the research looking at producing alternative protein sources from algae and how we can become a key contributor in this growing field.

Other areas of excellence, I’d like to mention, include your work improving farming conditions in our aquaculture industry and creating better health indicators for King Salmon, to help drive higher industry standards and maintain our position as a global leader.

This vision, to provide science that contributes to sustainable growth, also aligns with the multi-year programme I am leading which is focused on the future of New Zealand’s research system.  

Through Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways, we have recently completed engagement with you and the wider RSI sector.

I would like to formally thank Cawthron Institute, and individual staff members for your thoughtful submissions.

Several high-level themes coming through include:

  • Developing national research priorities, in partnership with Māori that are flexible and adaptable. 
  • A shift from the current focus of competition between organisations to a more collaborative approach.
  • Improving the visibility of Mātauranga Māori and better enabling Māori research aspirations
  • A desire that the future of our RSI sector is more stable both for our workforce, and across project funding

I’m pleased with our progress to date, we know we have much more to do. And as we speak, my MBIE officials are bringing together your feedback and aim to share this shortly. All in all, this is an exciting time to re-imagine a future research, science and innovation system that reflects our diverse nature.

So in closing, I would like to congratulate you again for achieving this significant milestone.

The pandemic has highlighted that we need to create a dynamic creative innovative environment where our businesses can thrive, and – here the story of Cawthron has important lessons for us all – not only in its ability to pivot and adapt to the areas of interest that matter to people, but also in making the most of resources that are unique to New Zealand, and through innovative industry partnerships. And in this age of social media and disinformation the need for good independent research with scientists enabled to act as a “critic and conscience” is of upmost importance, whether it is rebutting climate-change scepticism, or to help critically evaluate information so we can successfully meet future challenges. Yes experts still matter.

So as we gather together to celebrate the past 100 years of Thomas Cawthron’s vision, that vision of publically available science and evidence to connect us, is just as relevant today. I appreciate Cawthron Institute’s commitment towards good science and am looking forward to what the next 100 years has in store for you.

No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.