Investing in Knowledge
The environment, agriculture, and genetics; these are all areas of scientific research that benefit from using New Zealand's diverse environment as a staging ground. Whether it's a never-before-seen species of whale washing up on a beach (cnn.com), or genetically modified milk that can be ingested by people with milk allergies (bbc.co.uk), there's been no shortage of groundbreaking scientific discoveries in New Zealand.
But, even though the country is rich in opportunities to advance scientific knowledge, actual scientific skills are not so abundant. This makes it a notable addition to their essential skills shortage list.
The reason is complacency, according to Sir Peter David Gluckman, the first chief science advisor to the Prime Minister. The country has been satisfied with building its economy on tourism and agricultural exports, and has seen little incentive to invest in knowledge. The combined spending of government and industry on research amounts to a third of what countries that are roughly the same size have put towards it (www.3news.co.nz).
But, they're finally recognising the need. Both tourism and agriculture are dependent on New Zealand's amazing environment, and with the issues of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability coming to the fore, it's clear the environment is at risk if new methods and technologies are not devised. It raises questions like how to balance increasing agricultural production with conservation, and how to continue making revolutionary discoveries in the areas of biology and medicine? Only investment in knowledge can provide the answers.
Science is a broad term. The essential skills shortage list emphasizes environmental, agricultural and genetics sciences as the three most important areas where skills are required.
The lack of agricultural scientists has been attributed to the damage inflicted on the industry’s reputation by the “dirty dairying” controversy, which refers to the practice of moving cows to stand-off pads on the river during the winter. A cow produces emissions equal to fourteen times that of a human, and the amount of cow emissions leaking into rivers as a result of this practice has put certain areas at risk of becoming unfit for fishing and recreation (stuff.co.za).
This may have led many students to decide against pursuing a career in agricultural science, but the knowledge of agricultural and environmental scientists is exactly what's needed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. They're also needed to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand, half of which are a product of the agricultural industry (scoop.co.nz).
The emerging Asian market changes things, as well. Being in close proximity to India and China, New Zealand's agricultural industry is eager to develop methods of increasing production so as to meet the rising demand for resources and food produce in those countries. But, their tourism industry hinges on protecting the “100% pure” reputation of their environment.
So there is a need for agricultural scientists to help develop new agricultural methods, and for environmental scientists to provide their expertise. Genetically modified milk for people with milk allergies is an example of the achievements in genetic science, and skills in this area are necessary to continue the good work.
The government is investing NZ$52.8 million per annum in scientific research and innovation, and the contribution of international students to science and engineering in Canada has been recognized (scoop.co.nz). New Zealand seeks to bring in knowledge and skills from overseas to add to its own (msd.govt.nz).
These are some of the measures being taken to encourage the pursuit of science, as New Zealand seeks to protect its precious environment and harness all that it can provide towards advancing human knowledge.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of Skilled Migrant Jobs, a niche job portal that helps immigrants find jobs in Australia and New Zealand.