Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research's science platforms

Landcare Research receives $17.4 million per year for 2 science platforms - Land-based ecosystems and Enhancing land use. Below is the public statement from our contract with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research.

Land-based ecosystems ($9.15M per year)

This Platform supports research that enables New Zealand to sustainably manage its land-based species, habitats and ecosystems. Ultimately, this Platform aims to reverse the decline of New Zealand’s biodiversity – the many plants, animals, fungi and other life forms on the land – and enable us to manage and use our land resources in ways that protect them for future generations.

Research funded by this Platform will help land managers, conservation groups and policy-makers to save treasured species (~$3.35m investment); control high-priority animal pests, weeds and diseases (~$4.10m); and monitor and report on the quality of the land environment (~$1.30m). It will also support Māori aspirations (through investment in all research areas above, supplemented by ~$0.40m of investment specifically focused on Māori outcomes).

The Platform supports excellent research in line with current and emergent national priorities, including greater investment in higher-stretch research in critical areas, including developing and applying novel technologies. Research priorities for this Platform include integrating land use, biodiversity and social, cultural and economic factors to improve the resilience and adaptability of ecosystems across catchments and sectors, as well as the sustainability of land management decisions taken. The Platform will improve engagement and science communication to better inform the public about New Zealand’s natural species and environments, the threats facing them, and how science can help all New Zealanders to protect them.

A growing focus of the investment is to develop methods that rapidly and significantly improve control of the weeds, pests and diseases that threaten New Zealand’s nature and national economy. This will mean creating ready-to-use tools and technologies that can be easily used by non-specialists. A further focus will be to find meaningful and cost-effective ways to assess environmental quality in New Zealand. We need to know more about our unique species and habitats, and how they respond to key stressors, in order to understand how better protect and manage them into the future. We will also focus on developing better ways, including through the use of new technologies, to assess the health of New Zealand’s land environments.

Enhancing land use ($8.25M per year)

This Platform supports research that enables New Zealanders to better measure and manage their land resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and manage the environmental impacts of land use. It will enable the natural resources sector and the primary sector, including Māori, to manage land in ways that improve the quality of land, soil and fresh water (~$4.25m investment), reduce carbon emissions (~$1.40m) and verify New Zealand’s environmental performance (~$2.10m). This Platform will also support Māori aspirations (through investment in all research areas above, supplemented by ~$0.50m of investment specifically focused on Māori outcomes).

The Platform will invest in fundamental research in areas where more information is critically needed (e.g. soil processes), including social issues (e.g. how to best enable the behaviour changes needed to achieve sustainable land use). It will further develop nationally important databases and models (e.g. SedNetNZ) and use new supercomputing and remote-sensing technologies to generate data more cost-effectively and accurately. Using this fine-tuned data, we can provide more accurate farm-scale tools and advice. Research will also be scaled up to cover entire catchments and landscapes, and tools and advice will be developed that combine environmental, social and economic factors to enable land managers to achieve the best possible productivity from their land while protecting other values, such as water quality.

To achieve these goals and support science excellence, the Platform will invest in higher-risk, higher-impact research in high-priority areas (e.g. remote sensing and sensor networks) as well as improving big data expertise to enable data-driven science. We will increase investment in Māori-centred research in Platform Two, and will partner more systematically with Māori to build their capability in sustainable land development and kaitiakitanga.