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Centre of Ecological Economics to be launched

The New Zealand Centre for Ecological Economics (NZCEE), based at the Palmerston North campus, will officially be opened recently by the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, the Hon. Pete Hodgson.The research centre combines the expertise of both Massey University and Landcare Ltd.’s academics and scientists.

The funding of over $6 million has been awarded from the Foundation of Research, Science and Technology and will lock researchers into a worldwide network of ecological economics institutes.

So what is ecological economics? It places environmental sustainability at the forefront, identifying factors and processes necessary to maintain sustainability. Associate Professor Murray Patterson, who leads the Centre’s research, says the discipline is concerned with integrating the study and management of nature (ecology) and people (economics).

One major research project, Sustainable Pathways, examines sustainability in Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson. Dr Patterson says the project effectively measures each city’s resource consumption, pollution levels and environmental impact. Using GIS and computer modelling, this information can then be applied to calculate changes to the regional economy in a variety of scenarios. For example, if a policy change demanded that Auckland reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, computer modelling could be used to predict the economic impact. Industries most vulnerable to such a change could also be identified, creating a valuable tool for local and national government planning, says Dr Patterson.

Another research project, Ecological Footprint Plus, measures sustainability in the primary sectors of the New Zealand economy, from land-based agriculture, horticulture and forestry. It produces a final measurement in the form of an ecological footprint – defined as the environmental impact of an industry or product. Professor Patterson says the main end-users of the research are industry and business, which face increasingly pressure to produce products that are ‘clean and green’.