NIWA remains committed to its atmospheric science

NIWA will continue, as planned, to support Lauder as a key facility in our atmospheric research portfolio.

NIWA's Chief Scientist of Atmospheric Research, Dr Murray Poulter, says "atmospheric science and research has always been a core area of focus within NIWA, and NIWA remains committed to supporting its associated facilities and research, which contribute significantly to international atmospheric research and understanding."

His comments follow media reports about the recent NIWA review of its atmospheric science and priorities – in particular proposed changes at the NIWA Lauder research facility in Central Otago.

The review has followed NIWA process, and has considered input from within NIWA, and from national and international scientists, institutions and programmes. The predominant factors emphasised in the submissions were:

The global significance of Lauder (and Arrival Heights) as an observing site,The importance of continuing core time-series measurements,The need for science input and oversight of the measurements.

After careful consideration of the submissions received, NIWA has made the following decisions:

  • NIWA will continue, as planned, to support Lauder as a key facility in our atmospheric research portfolio.
  • A new scientist position focusing on atmospheric measurement and analysis will be created to help maintain measurement quality and innovation, and total science staffing at Lauder will be reduced by two positions.
  • As intended, the core regular atmospheric measurements at Lauder will continue.
  • Some short-term experimental campaigns will be discontinued in order to focus on international initiatives.
  • NIWA will continue its capital investment in equipment to support measurements at Lauder, with a new radio-sonde receiver this financial year.
  • NIWA values and will continue to support collaboration with other science institutions, and will actively explore new and emerging opportunities.
  • The Lauder based science team will be managed from Wellington, rather than Christchurch, to further integrate NIWA's atmospheric and climate research.

Dr Poulter says "the changes will have a small impact on NIWA's ability to conduct internationally recognised atmospheric research or collect core regular atmospheric measurements at Lauder that feed into international work to understand the drivers of global atmospheric change and climate."

"The changes being made will ensure we maintain the appropriate capability to meet the country's science and innovation needs, whilst at the same time using limited resources wisely. The proposed changes will not have any impact on NIWA's ability to meet its wider core climate and atmospheric science responsibilities."

NIWA employs more than 60 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in climate and atmospheric research and has invested $11.6 million of core funding in this area, of which $5.65m relates specifically to atmospheric science.