Waikato University geography department’s Professor Richard Bedford has been made a member of the Queen’s Service Order for his services to geography, as part of the New Year’s honour list. Professor Bedford has recommended numerous colleagues for a national honour but never expected to get one himself.
“It was a complete surprise, although earlier in the year I had been awarded by the New Zealand Geographical Society, but I didn’t expect something else to follow on from that it’s a bit intriguing,” he said.
Prof Bedford, who’ll turn 63 this week, taught at Canterbury University for 17 years before joining Waikato University in 1989. He has been the professor of geography ever since, and has seen thousands of students pass through his classes.
“It’s quite interesting. You meet them (former students) on the street, and it’s good to catch up and see them.”
Prof Bedford was educated in Auckland, and attended Auckland University with the intention of becoming a teacher.
“It’s not that easy to define a career as a geographer, as such, simply because you don’t see many advertisements saying `we’re looking for a geographer’ or `we’re looking for a planner’,” he said.
Prof Bedford said while geography can encompass many fields of study, his area of interest has always been migration trends and population studies, topics involving people.
His Auckland University Masters thesis was based on research in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now Kiribati and Tuvalu). He recently returned there after 40 years.
The island research spawned his interest in population issues and led to a PhD. Thirty years of extensive subsequent research in the field has seen him visit numerous Pacific island countries, including Fiji, Bougainville and New Caledonia.
His research work and study and have led to his directorship with the university’s Institute of Population Studies, and during the past 20 years he has focused on the impact of migration of Pacific people coming to New Zealand. He has worked on government immigration policy and has advised both the Labour Department and Immigration Department on immigration issues.