The New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) is led by a consortium that brings together the substantial capability of three research-intensive New Zealand universities:
- Auckland University of Technology.
- The University of Auckland.
- The University of Otago.
These universities have the capability to produce a rich and sophisticated body of new research from diverse disciplinary perspectives that charts the changing shape of Pacific Island societies, the challenges they face, and the opportunities for their future development. Together, they will also support NZIPR as an important knowledge store and transmission point within the Pacific as a whole.
In 1963, the University of Auckland Council appointed a South Pacific Programme Committee as an expression of its commitment to further New Zealand’s regional and global interests in the Pacific, quoting Dean Rusk, the US Secretary of State, who had earlier that year charged New Zealand with its share of the new world order:
"We [the United States] find ourselves turning to you, in the face of the record which you have established in [the Pacific] …[to] assist the people of the Island territories in making economic, social and political progress."
Over time the research paradigm in which Pacific Islanders were only to be subjects, rather than practitioners, of research, has given way to a more inclusive approach.
Similarly, AUT has been active in Pacific research for many years. The Centre for Pacific Health and Development Research hosts the Pacific Islands Families Study, a longitudinal multidisciplinary study following 1398 children born in 2000, the only specific longitudinal study of Pacific people in the world. AUT’s Manukau Campus is located at the heart of the Pacific diaspora.
In terms of Pacific research and teaching, the University of Otago has a significant tradition dating back to the 1950s when several scholars undertook ground-breaking work on New Zealand foreign policy and cultural engagement with the region. This work continues still in the annual Foreign Policy School. Otago has a thriving Pacific Research Cluster, which includes researchers from across the University. Within the Division of Health Sciences, Pacific Health is taught in all health professional courses, and a senior lecturer position in Pacific Health was established in 2003.
Over the last decade, the University has developed a close association with the National University of Samoa, which culminated in the opening of University of Otago House in Apia in 2008.