Otago Polytechnic

A significant new chapter in sustainability education has begun. 

“Whaiao - Education for Sustainability Otago” was officially launched by Stephen Town, Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology Chief Executive, at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, today, Thursday 15 October. 

The launch was part of a day-long workshop that involved a broad range of partners joined by a common goal – to identify and address sustainability issues in our region. 

Previously known as the Otago Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development, Whaiao is literally translated as “daylight”, or “letting the light in”. 

Like the landscape of the Otago region, the network of organisations involved in the initiative is both large and diverse: mana whenua, educators, students, researchers, non-profit agencies, local government leaders, businesses and community members. 

Today’s Dunedin workshop included: Kāi Tahu, Dunedin City Council, University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Otago Regional Council, Otago Chamber of Commerce, Naylor Love, Contact Energy, Queenstown Resort College, Untouched World Foundation, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Wanaka Tourism, and many other businesses and groups, including several secondary schools. 

These partners have been working under a United Nations University mandate since January 2020, when the Otago region was named a United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) for Sustainability. 

Suggested by Megan Pōtiki (Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou) and inspired by the creation narrative that was recorded by Matiaha Tiramorehu in the 1800s, the title Whaiao enshrines a vision of a strong yet agile organization that aims to identify and lead action to advance regional and global sustainability goals.  

Whaiao has established a bicultural framework that is a first for any RCE in the world. The partnership model with mana whenua offers great opportunities to provide leadership to other RCEs regarding effective partnership with indigenous partners and communities.  

This collaborative spirt was in evidence throughout the workshop, as attendees split into a range of working groups to discuss key issues, including biculturalism, sustainable towns and cities, partnerships, primary industries, water, tourism, and education. 

“Whaiao is driven by local people wanting to work together for a sustainable future. We are collaborating to promote sustainability education, training, and public awareness,” Dr Barry Law, Director of Whaiao - Education for Sustainability Otago, says.  

“We have collaborative partnerships and governance in place, and an ability to take action.”  

Also present at the launch, Dr Megan Gibbons, Otago Polytechnic Chief Executive, says it’s vital to get people excited about sustainability issues.  

“We don’t get behaviour change until we teach people how to incorporate ideas into their life and get into a pattern.    

“It’s also vitally important to correctly identify what the core issues are. For example, a group in Oamaru had suggested culling native seagulls – however, once the core issue was identified (in this case, dirty streets) other options, such as street cleaning, became a solution."


Published on 15 Oct 2020

Orderdate: 15 Oct 2020
Expiry: 31 Dec 2022