Resource development and management

Massey is committed to addressing the issues faced by the development and management of natural resources to ensure a sustainable future for the world. Sustainability and resilience are two of the big ‘wicked’ multi-dimensional problems of the 21st century – environmentally, economically, culturally, politically, and socially. Our challenge is to live smarter and to reduce the impact of our lives on the environment so that natural resources will be available for future generations. At Massey we have developed specialist skills and a span of expertise ranging across such topics as fresh water governance, environmentally sustainable food production, the development of renewable fuels/energy, population management, animal extinction science and biodiversity, and climate change.

Natural disasters and their catastrophic consequences are an important dimension of effective resource management. Massey hosts one of New Zealand's leading volcanology groups who focus on the formation of volcanoes. Forecasting when their eruptions might happen is arguably the most important part of this science, with many cities, farms and power-stations near volcanoes and geothermal areas. At the very least, it’s about setting up warning systems and plans to ensure that the impact on humans is minimal.

Water is often referred to as ‘tomorrow’s strategic issue’. Do we have enough or too much? For New Zealand and other key producer nations, the issue is not just the availability and management of this resource but also the usage of water to drive industrial practices. Key to New Zealand’s economic sustainability is the importance of agriculture and dairy-based industries however they are significant factors in the water usage of the country. The pollution of our waterways by dairy farm effluent remains unsustainable and challenging. A land-based effluent treatment system designed by Massey researchers, Deferred Irrigation, is now adopted nationally as an industry gold standard to help address this issue.

Further impacting these industries is the vast consumption of water to maintain production. Massey research explored whether new watering practices known as deficit irrigation could improve water use efficiency. The study found efficiency of irrigation water could be boosted by as much as 90 percent. While at the forefront of research affecting local issues Massey maintains a strong global focus. A recent study of sustainable irrigation practices in rural India produced practical ways to boost water productivity. It also offered solutions for measuring and enhancing sustainability of regional irrigation systems.

Resource and Environmental Planning, Natural Resource Systems Modelling and Ecological Economics are critical to the success and implementation of resource research and Massey has developed expertise in public policy development across a number of areas including energy, environment, regional development and the labour market to provide the underpinning methodologies. A key speciality is the development of analytical tools such as models, databases, and techniques for multi-criteria analysis so that economic and environmental policy can be better integrated.

As finite resources vanish, the search for better ways to harness energy, especially renewables, becomes more pressing. An industry partner funded Massey to investigate the energy efficiency of industrial chilled water systems. Using data and methodologies developed at Massey, the company saved more than 10 percent of its energy costs.

Wind remains a popular source of renewable energy. Massey researchers designed a novel wind turbine unit for rural homes which also keeps a precise record of  the amount of power generated thus allowing for effective national grid integration. Massey researchers are also engaged in research developing future sources of renewable biofuels. A recent Massey study, which established the steps necessary to make the large-scale production of algal-derived fuels feasible, has attracted global attention.

Ensuring the sustainability of animal species, especially rare ones, is another pressing issue. Our researchers conducted a landmark study of mortality in New Zealand birds infected with lethal strains of the fowl pox virus. A number of collaborations to monitor for the disease in populations of rare native species have resulted from the study. A separate study of threatened New Zealand falcons in a plantation forest found that clear-fell harvesting offers significant benefits and forestry company harvesting methods have been adapted to exploit this opportunity.

Much of Massey’s work on sustainability occurs within the research centres and networks hosted across the three campuses. They included the College of Creative Arts Sustainability Network, the NZ Biochar Research Centre, the Climate Change Research Network, Ecological Economics Research NZ, the Centre for Energy Research, the NZ Life Cycle Management Centre, Innovative River Solutions, and the Zero Waste Academy. Another dimension of this provision is the ‘Living Lab’ collaboratories we have developed with key New Zealand community partners.

Resource development and management research stories

Rangahau 2020