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National Land Resources Centre (NLRC)

The National Land Resource Centre (NLRC) was a collaborative science centre that existed from 2012 until 2018.

The Director was Dr Alison Collins (now Departmental Science Advisor, Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand). Dr David Medyckyj-Scott was the centre’s Technical Director.

The National Land Resource Centre (NLRC) was established by Manaaki Whenua in response to the 2010 CRI Taskforce recommendations. These recommendations included calls for a move:

  • from a contestable operating environment into one in which CRIs worked collaboratively to solve national science challenges,
  • to focus on creating maximum research uptake and therefore impact, by working strategically and in partnership with a wider range of stakeholders.

The science of the land resource seemed the perfect place to seek transformation.

New Zealand’s ‘land economy’ – agriculture, forestry, mining and tourism – provides more than 25% of the country’s GDP and therefore New Zealand’s future prosperity is highly dependent on better understanding and managing this important resource.

During the 2000s, science focus on the land resource had a history of fragmented capability and minimal investment compared with areas such as climate and biodiversity. Furthermore, information on the land resource, and the capability to commission, generate, interpret, and use it, was distributed across many organisations. Yet there was a range of interested and diverse organisations, groups, and individuals across New Zealand who realised the importance of New Zealand’s land resource and that it needed to be better understood and able to respond to the challenges facing it. Dr Alison Collins proposed that a collaborative science centre be established that operated beyond institutional boundaries, communicated science without exclusivity of language or form, and provided the evidence and capability from which to enhance and unlock the ’land economy’.

The concept of a national centre was tested with a number of stakeholders in 2011 and 2012 and received a remarkable level of support. Manaaki Whenua’s Board, in collaboration with other science providers and organisations, committed strategic investment to take the idea of a centre and develop it further.

The centre, which was based in Palmerston North, was formally launched in Wellington in July 2012 by the then Secretary for the Environment, Dr Paul Reynolds (Ministry for the Environment).

The centre had three mains aims.

  • Transforming the way science is brought together, delivered, and used. The NLRC wanted to create conversations on national priorities for science, evidence-based policy, and business decisions to meet the needs of all stakeholders. The NLRC saw itself offering strategic leadership to consider issues affecting the use of our land resource in the future as well as the science and information that was going to needed to respond to these challenges.
  • Building capability and partnership across the sectors. The NLRC sought to develop the capability of those researching, governing, and managing the land resource. A key problem Dr Collins identified was that many experts in land resource science were approaching retirement. The centre looked to try to capture knowledge from those experts and develop ways to share their knowledge effectively with others.
    It was also recognised that in the future much land resource data was going to have to be shared between the data systems run by different organisations. This would require establishing a distributed data platform designed to improve discovery, access, and re-use of environmental data including land resource data. To bring this about would require collaboration between science, technical, and strategic partners to agree which standards would be used and what shared technical components needed to be built.
  • Creating a gateway to New Zealand’s land resources and services. The solution to the problem of information on the land resource being distributed across many organisations was to launch an online gateway to available research and resources, data, workshops, forums, and experts. The website was launched at the inauguration of the NLRC in 2012. In time, the idea was that this would be integrated with an environmental data platform.

The NLRC was a collaborative partnership among a number of Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) including Landcare Research, AgResearch, Scion, Plant & Food Research, and GNS Science. The NLRC also worked with other agencies (Massey & Lincoln Universities, Regional Council Special Interest Groups) to develop capacity-building initiatives (e.g. seminars, workshops) to increase the use (and value) of land data and tools.

Significant outputs of the centre

In 2013, the NLRC worked closely with the Regional Council’s Land Monitoring Forum (LMF) and Land Managers Group (LMG) SIGs to identify critical issues and soil and land research priorities. The result was the report, ‘Alignment of Land Special Interest Groups and the NLRC Priorities’. Key recommendations were the need to develop a long-term land and soil research strategy that considered both immediate and long-term issues, the requirement to bridge the science-implementation gap and to work across the land and water domain.

Also in 2013, staff from the centre undertook a review of the collaboration landscape in Sustainable Agriculture. This was New Zealand’s contribution to the Knowledge Based Bio-Economy Forum – a partnership between New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the European Commission (2013).

With respect to growing capability and capacity, the centre under took a preliminary review of capacity building needs in the land resource sector in 2013.

In 2014–15, Alison Collins led a three-phase project funded by the Ministry for the Primary Industries to determine the state of and future requirements for soil management in New Zealand. This was a collaborative project with other CRIs and representatives from agriculture, horticulture, and the regional councils. The resulting three reports (Looking Back, Looking Out, and Looking Forward) provided a national benchmark on what we know about New Zealand’s soils, the stresses it is under, and a vision for how New Zealand might manage its soil resource better in the future.

In 2014 staff from the NLRC worked again with the LMF and LMG group to produce an updated Strategic Roadmap for Land and Water Research.

In 2016, David Medyckyj-Scott led a small group of New Zealand experts to produce a commissioned ‘think piece’ for Our Land and Water National Science Challenge that defined a land and water data ecosystem – a data system made up of people, practices, values, and technologies – to underpin the challenge in meeting its mission.

Finally, during 2017/18, David Medyckyj-Scott worked with Kristin Stock (Massey University) to develop a paper-based toolkit to assist those researchers wanting to use crowdsourcing to gather environmental data. The tools provided were: a crowdsourcing project Planning Task Inventory; a data collection Strategy Selection Tool; an Issues Matrix, identifying the issues that must be considered for a given data collection strategy; and a Recommendations Matrix for deciding which data collection strategy to employ. (Contact David Medyckyj-Scott if you wish to obtain a copy of the report and the associated tools.)

Over its life time, the centre also ran a series of seminars and workshops to develop capability and share expertise:

  • the value of digital tools and social media to increase outreach (with AgResearch) (2014)
  • trans-Tasman soil information standards and information modelling (2014)
  • new developments in land management tools and their application at the farm scale (2015)
  • identification, prioritisation, critical gaps for land and soil indicators for the Environmental Monitoring and Reporting (EMaR) initiative (2015)
  • rural networks & networking, a seminar by Dr Barbara King, from Rural Innovation Research Group, Melbourne School of Land and Environment (2015)

The NLRC website became a key resource in New Zealand for finding information on current research and research projects, historic projects, key reports, tools, data, workshops, forums, and experts.

With the announcement that the centre’s Director was to leave Manaaki Whenua in August 2017, the centre’s future became unclear. The Technical Director continued to lead the centre while decisions were made on its future, its focus, and its overarching leadership. In spring 2018 the decision was made to wind down the centre. The NLRC website was taken offline in March 2019.

We have created this page as a record of the existence of the centre and to allow ongoing access to the publications and reports produced by the centre.

Finally, we would like to thank those who supported the centre during its existence.

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