Presentation Of New Zealand Science And Technology Medals

  • Maurice Williamson
Research, Science and Technology

Grand Hall, Parliament House Tonight we are here to recognise the sustained achievements of some of our top performers within the science and technology community. These people have not only made their mark on New Zealand science, but also demonstrated that New Zealand can, in a number of areas, lead the world. Unfortunately though, recognising achievement and what it takes to be a success is something we do not do enough of in New Zealand.

Over the last two months my Cabinet colleagues and I have been involved in a series of 24 forums all over New Zealand. From Invercargill to Whangarei we have been asking New Zealand leaders in business, education, research and Government what is needed to ensure that we are generating the ideas and capturing their benefits to ensure New Zealand's future prosperity and well being.

One overriding theme emerging from these forums is the need by our society to actively promote success and build a supportive culture for creative and innovative New Zealanders. The forum participants have indicated that to achieve this supportive culture, and we all recognise it will take some time to do this, we need to take some important steps:

Know what success is and when we have achieved it in our own social, cultural and economic setting; Equip ourselves to succeed with the right mix of knowledge and skills; Believe in ourselves, and know we can succeed in a wide range of endeavours; Build an environment that supports innovative New Zealanders; and Celebrate our successes each and every step along the way. These are all good reasons why Government is proud to support the New Zealand Science and Technology Medals, and why all of us are gathered here tonight to share in the success of these important New Zealanders.

What makes a successful scientist, engineer or technologist? In the past this was generally a highly-qualified and knowledgeable professional employed in a Government lab or University. They succeeded because they generated some new idea or new knowledge that perhaps, if we were lucky, would one day benefit our economy, environment or society.

Increasingly in the future, success will be defined away from a direct employment relationship with Government, and within a dynamic partnership between the public and private sectors. Together Government and enterprise must be working together to generate the innovative ideas needed to help New Zealanders achieve the high standard of living and quality of life we desire.

Our Gold Medal winner, Dr Bill Robinson, reflects in his own career these sorts of changes we are beginning to see in our New Zealand science community. He and his team that worked in DSIR to develop a range of earthquake shaking damping devices have moved their ideas from the Government lab, into a company started jointly with a CRI and into the competitive, commercial environment. We are standing in a building that is using the commercial application of a New Zealand innovation to mitigate the effects of strong earthquake shaking. Furthermore, this device also finds wide commercial application outside New Zealand. That's another success for us to celebrate tonight.

Our medallists are also significant in that their contribution extends beyond their excellence in research. Some of them are making major contributions to the ongoing development of our science system, while others are out there promoting to a public audience the wonders of science and the value it creates. Our young New Zealanders need to understand how science and technology skills are vital for their future success. Not because we want them all to become researchers, but because no matter what career path they choose, a solid grounding in science and technology will help them be better business leaders, better thinkers and better New Zealanders.

It is my great pleasure to be able to share in the celebration and reward of our New Zealand Science and Technology Medal winners tonight. They have easily earned the recognition we are giving them. Our medallists have achieved at the same level as our highly acclaimed New Zealand sports people, but their sporting awards are televised and acclaimed widely in the media. I hope that one day our achievements in science and technology will be equally recognised by the New Zealand public. Until that time, I would like you all to make sure that their achievements are well recognised outside our science community, and that their achievements will inspire others to similar achievements.