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Science helps shape the fightback

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NIWA’s Chief Executive John Morgan looks at the role science will play in New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery.

It has been a tough few months. We’ve all been caught up in a global pandemic that has swept lives and livelihoods before it, with unimaginable speed.

Prompt action looks to have shielded our country from the full force of the virus. But New Zealanders are still processing the impacts of that response and learning what will be needed to live and work in a post Covid-19 world.

One thing, however, is already clear. That is the importance of science, both in dealing with the pandemic itself, but also in helping to outline pathways to recovery.

Medical science is not NIWA’s area of expertise; however, the processing power of the supercomputers hosted in our High Performance Computing Facility are helping our ESR colleagues unravel the genome sequence of New Zealand’s positive Covid-19 cases.

One of our population modelling experts has also been working alongside the multi-disciplinary team producing the epidemiological models shaping New Zealand’s response to the virus.

NIWA’s major contribution to the nation’s coronavirus fightback, however, will come from our capability in climate, freshwater and ocean science. A key focus is on projects that will improve the health of our waterways and oceans, help communities adapt to a changing climate and provide fresh, sustainable opportunities for industry.

NIWA’s aquaculture expertise, for example, is the foundation for the innovative, multi-million dollar kingfish farming enterprise fast developing at our Northland Marine Research Centre at Ruakaka. It’s a case where science is literally “spawning” new investment and employment opportunities for regional New Zealand.

Whether it is supercharging our abilities to forecast New Zealand’s changing climate, mapping the scale of the marine ecosystem services running along our coastline, or arming communities with more effective information about hazardous floods: NIWA’s science is targeted to deliver fresh options.

Contrary to popular opinion, science seldom produces a single, magic solution. But focused research programmes, woven together over time do uncover new opportunities and NIWA is committed to keep working with New Zealand communities and businesses to find those new ways of doing things.

It has been a tough few months, but I am more confident than ever that NIWA’s science remains on track to help New Zealanders shape a bright, low carbon, post-Covid future.

This article forms part of Water & Atmosphere July 2020, read more stories from this series.