New Zealand and Australia sign collaborative agreement on marine research and observation


A historic agreement, aimed at improving country-to-country collaboration on marine research, observations and data management between New Zealand and Australia, has been signed in Canberra this morning.

The agreement was signed by Senator the Hon Kim Carr, Minister of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and the New Zealand High Commissioner, HE Martyn Dunne, at Parliament House in Australia.

Recognising that both countries have a shared interest in the Tasman Sea, Pacific Ocean and the Southern Ocean, the Australian Government – represented by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) – met with the New Zealand Government in February last year to discuss how to garner greater cooperation on marine research and science.

At this meeting it was agreed that a steering committee would be set up to develop a formal arrangement between the two countries. New Zealand members of the steering committee include representatives of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), GNS Science, the University of Otago and the Ministry of Science and Innovation. Australian members include representatives from the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and DIISR.

Today's signing is the culmination of those discussions.

At the same time the formal agreement is being signed in Canberra, a joint Australia-New Zealand marine observation symposium is being held in Hobart to develop collaborative research opportunities for inclusion in a future bilateral work programme.

Speaking from Hobart, IMOS Director Tim Moltmann said the agreement to cooperate more on marine research and observation would have huge benefits for both countries.

"Australia is now taking a much more national, collaborative approach to marine observing and data management. This is paying big dividends for marine and climate science in our own country and it just makes good sense to reach out to our near neighbours. We're absolutely delighted that a very senior group of science leaders from New Zealand has been willing to travel to Hobart with the aim of figuring out how we do this together, on a bigger, regional scale. So many of the problems we are studying are common across our countries and, in the ocean, we're all connected."

Leader of the New Zealand delegation Dr Charlotte Severne, NIWA's Chief Scientist, Oceans, said "the ability of New Zealand to make marine observations, manage databases and undertake economic, environmental and climate change research will be greatly enhanced under the agreement. This strategic initiative will provide us with a working platform for our common areas of interest such as the Tasman Sea, Pacific Ocean and the Southern Ocean. Additionally, it will assist our countries to better understand and monitor natural variability and changes in the marine environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

"As New Zealand's leading research and applied science provider in marine sciences, NIWA maintains nationally and internationally significant atmospheric, climate and marine monitoring networks, equipment and databases. Along with our significant expertise in marine science and important assets, such as our research vessel Tangaroa, NIWA will be able to make a huge contribution to this collaborative international initiative," Dr Severne said.

"The flow-on economic and environmental benefits to New Zealand – including improved security, greater understanding of climate change and more sustainable use of our marine resources – will be enormous."

The two-day symposium has three themes:

  • Bluewater and climate observations and modeling
  • Regional coastal observations and modeling
  • Underpinning infrastructure

New Zealand's involvement in the symposium is funded through the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Other information:

The goals of the "Arrangement on Marine Observation between the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government" are to cooperate to:

(a) Create an advanced prediction capability based on improved observation and understanding of the climate systems Australia and New Zealand.

(b) Improve access to environmental data and modelling tools that will:

  • lead to practical mitigation and adaptation solutions
  • help industry respond to climate change
  • support the development of effective economic, social and environmental policy measures as these relate to marine systems.

(c) Create a knowledge base for marine systems that will generate significant economic and employment growth opportunities, including in environmental services

(d) Improve access to climate and marine systems knowledge and information.

(e) Develop an integrated New Zealand and Australian marine observation system comprising of a distributed set of equipment, co-operative agreements and data and information systems. With a focus on coastal oceans and blue-water, this will include:

  • Sharing data to support research on many of the critical marine related issues facing Australia and New Zealand, including climate change and sustainable use of marine resources and ocean ecosystems health
  • Providing observational capability to better understand and predict the links between coastal biological processes and regional and oceanic factors that influence biodiversity. 
The agreement was signed by Senator the Hon Kim Carr (on the right), Minister of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and the New Zealand High Commissioner, HE Martyn Dunne, at Parliament House in Australia.
Research subject: Oceans