New name, continued focus for institute

19 Mar, 2024
New name, continued focus for institute
AUT's NZPRI core team celebrate at the recent launch

The launch of AUT’s NZ Policy Research Institute | Te Kāhui Rangahau Mana Taurite  marks not just a new name but a renewed commitment by the institute to doing research that matters to help diverse communities around Aotearoa.

Around 100 people from across Auckland gathered to mark the rebranded NZ Policy Research Institute (formerly the NZ Work Research Institute) and to acknowledge the evolution of its leadership, objectives, and scope of work. In her opening remarks, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Business School Dean, Professor Kate Kearins, praised the “reputational excellence and value” that the institute – dubbed “NZPRI” – brings to the University.

“The institute undertakes impactful research that aligns with our Business School strategy. That impact is felt by ministers, policymakers, and of course by the communities that benefit from NZPRI’s work,” said Professor Kearins, adding that the team “works hard and loves cake!”

NZPRI director, Professor of Economics Gail Pacheco, gave a brief history of the institute, which began in 2008 as the Centre for Work and Labour Market Studies. It was soon upgraded to “institute” status to become the New Zealand Work and Labour Market Institute (NZWALMI). At that time, the research concentrated on human resources management and employment relations. In 2012, it became the NZ Work Research Institute. Two years later, Professor Pacheco joined as co-director, and then as director in 2015. She recalled the many times, before they had a StatsNZ data lab onsite, when she had to climb the hill to the Stats NZ office – sometimes several times a day – to run code.

Today, Professor Pacheco supports a team of 20 who work with over 70 research experts across four research groups and a rolling roster of postgraduate students who work as research assistants. The institute receives close to $3 million annually in external funding, which means they have been able to increase their “wagon wheel” of research themes to tackle a wide range of issues. Themes of focus include public policy, the labour market, health inequities, as well as crime and safety. Working with big data, primary surveys, and qualitative analyses NZPRI researchers can pivot to investigate issues as they become relevant – for example, when a global pandemic causes worldwide lockdowns and vaccine mandates.

The new institute has also been gifted a te reo name, which was developed with Professor Tania Ka’ai of AUT’s Te Ipukarea Research Institute. The name, “Te Kāhui Rangahau Mana Taurite”,  reflects a research hub that focuses on equity. The kupu also reflect the integrity and focus of NZPRI’s work and the outcomes intended by the research undertaken.

“The decision to rebrand reflects our ongoing commitment to research, influence, and impact on a wider policy scope – beyond the original remit of ‘work’ – whether it be at the national level in terms of public policy, at the industry or sector level, or at the organisational level,” said Professor Pacheco.

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