Chair & Chief Executive's review
Landcare Research exists because New Zealanders care about their natural environment. Whether in business, on the farm, in urban communities or in their recreation, New Zealanders want their natural environment to be healthy because it is central to the identity, liveability and future prosperity of the nation. Landcare Research provides an understanding of the health of the natural environment and tools that will help protect that health and grow our national prosperity. Our scientists work with our stakeholders in business, government and the community to make the fruits of our work readily accessible and useful. Therefore our vision is ‘science and environment for a better New Zealand’.
In line with the other Crown research institutes (CRIs) we have implemented recommendations of the 2010 CRI Taskforce and worked on implementing the 5-year strategies in our 2011–16 Statement of Corporate Intent. Our science is now more dynamically aligned to our stakeholders’ priorities. We have introduced new lines of research re.ecting contemporary issues in policymaking and the support of trade. Our International Science Advisory Panel has started its 3-year term; and we have refreshed both our senior and science leadership teams.
Our net surplus in our Parent science business exceeded budget ($1.9m vs $1.6m). Revenue in our science business was $58.3m (compared to a target of $57.5m), which is pleasing given budget constraints for many of our government clients.
During the year we sold our subsidiary Sirtrack Limited to Lotek Wireless Inc, the global market leader in wildlife telemetry. Sirtrack revenue at the time of sale was $1.8m compared with a full year budget of $4.8m. Sirtrack has been disclosed in our annual report financials as a discontinued operation. carboNZero Holdings Limited, which includes the carbon footprint management programme, was corporatised and invested for international growth. However, growth fell short of expectations and a new strategy is in place to attract external investment and expertise. The impacts of that shortfall have contributed to a Group revenue of $59.3m (excluding Sirtrack) versus a comparable target of $61.4m. Group return on equity (including subsidiaries and investments in new science and infrastructure) was 4.9% (compared to a target of 5.3%).
Landcare Research’s focus is upon contributing to desired National Outcomes in environmental asset management through working with our stakeholders. This report contains many examples of those contributions.
By increasing the ability of government organisations to use consistent methods for assessing the state of biodiversity and the threat of species extinction our science is making an important contribution towards sustaining our national biodiversity assets. Tools we have developed will enable agencies to pre-assess pest species for the suitability of control by biological agents; and we have produced wetland restoration manuals that assist companies, councils and communities engaged in restoring these much-depleted habitats.
Our development of the National Land Resource (NLRC) web portal, which enables collaboration across science, government and the private sector, is making information, data and services for sustainable land use more readily available. Our S-map Online is increasingly valuable to land managers making land use and soil husbandry decisions, and several lines of our research are supporting the development of precision irrigation and the sustainable intensification of agriculture.
We are making good progress towards Outcome 3. Improved understanding of the dynamics of greenhouse gases in natural and farmed systems is helping to reduce uncertainties in national inventories, and has demonstrated the potential for reducing nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture. This year we launched a new 5-year project in partnership with dairy company Synlait and other science organisations, investigating changes in emissions and soil carbon with land conversion to dairy farming.
In our operating environment we have seen an increase in support for – and expectations of – science in both innovation and economic development. The private sector has begun to take a stronger role in seeking solutions to climate change and for the stewardship of our natural assets. This reflects their need to secure a ‘sustainable licence to operate’ from local communities and international markets. Our science and knowledge have contributed across a range of areas of compliance and competitive advantage.
We have been pleased to welcome more major companies to our carboNZeroCert™ (greenhouse gas) and Enviro-Mark® (environmental management) certification programmes. Toyota NZ is now a member of both, with its national dealership joining Enviro-Mark and working towards Gold certification. Membership of the carboNZero programme by Ricoh in New Zealand has contributed to their Australian operations also joining; and in the UK, members of carboNZero’s CEMARS® certi.cation scheme include the Environment Agency, the Scottish Parliament, Volvo and a number of major utilities.
Landcare Research seeks to be at the leading edge of change in the role that science plays for government policy, industrial sector strategy and community conversations on the terrestrial environment. Therefore this year we initiated a series of regular science and policy seminars in Wellington that have attracted a significant audience; and we contributed to the sustainability debate in the private sector through active membership of Business New Zealand and the newly-formed Sustainable Business Council. The Land and Water Forum has been a leading example of bringing diverse stakeholders together to address complex challenges (and opportunities) in a collaborative manner; and we have been pleased to contribute technical support to the Forum.
Our Vision Matauranga strategy embodies the importance of our relationship with tangata whenua and Maori organisations and the desire for our science to work alongside their world view. This report contains examples of our continuing and productive relationships, for example with the Tuhoe iwi on finding appropriate models for conservation governance and sustainable use of natural assets.
Our role includes maintaining national science capability in our specialist fields. We are pleased that international benchmarking has recognised the impact of our published papers is 50% higher than the world average, and our ‘excellence rate’ (papers included among the most cited papers in relevant scientific fields) is the highest for any New Zealand university or CRI. We work with some of the world’s best science teams and organisations; and we play important roles in many international projects.
Our scientists continue to be recognised nationally and internationally with awards for their expertise and achievements.
We have also invested strongly in our science facilities, upgrading our greenhouse gas research and national plant collection facilities at Lincoln and contributing to the National e-Science Infrastructure Project, which will enhance the computing resources and connectivity available to New Zealand’s scientists.
The CRIs’ shareholding Ministers are interested in how the performance of a CRI changes over time, and in how a CRI can improve its performance. The CRI Taskforce recommended that each CRI be monitored against key performance indicators. Engagement with stakeholders is vital to developing and delivering maximum value from our scientific research. We put much effort into engaging with our stakeholders; so it is pleasing that the recent MBIE-commissioned survey showed that our key stakeholders are satis.ed with their engagement and influence on Landcare Research’s science investment and priority-setting; 97% of them had used knowledge or tools that came from our research.
Corporate sustainability is a significant goal for Landcare Research and is achieved through the difference we can make for other organisations, enhancing their sustainable economic development; strengthening social capital in our own community; and lessening the environmental impact of our own activities. It remains a challenge for us to assess indirect impacts; but the results of reducing our direct impacts have been pleasing this year and are reported on our sustainability website.
We face a challenging year in meeting financial targets as the global financial environment continues to favour extreme caution in public and private sector expenditure. But we have a positive outlook for achievements in 2012/13, through working closely with the business sector, government, Maori organisations and the wider community as they seek pathways for sustainable economic development. We are being proactive in developing opportunities for science, government and business partnership to achieve sustainable, green growth of land-based enterprises, especially in the cluster centred on Lincoln and Canterbury; and this will be one of our contributions to the Christchurch earthquake recovery. In New Zealand especially, investment in the natural environment is an investment in the economy; and it is our role in Landcare Research to help make that connection.
CRIs came into existence on the 1st July 1992. In July this year, we were delighted to celebrate our 20th anniversary and all staff were presented with a small gift of an inscribed native wood chopping board made from timber salvaged from earthquake damaged buildings in Christchurch.
Change of Board Chair
At the end of 2011/12, Landcare Research and the Board of Directors bid farewell to outgoing Chair Jo Brosnahan. Jo had been a director for six years, including five years as Chair. We benefited greatly from her leadership skill, governance expertise, and careful attention to building the culture of the organisation.
Peter Schuyt is our new Chair. He joined the Board in 2009 and was Deputy Chair. Peter brings considerable depth of expertise from previous senior executive and directorship roles in a diverse group of companies. Peter accepted the new role saying, ‘it is a privilege to chair an organisation that plays a special role in New Zealand’s future and reflects the importance that New Zealanders ascribe to their natural environment and its wise use.’