> The initiative
Aotearoa New Zealand’s first national SDG Summit Series was held in 2018, with the intention that other New Zealand universities would host subsequent summits in a sequence leading to 2030. The Aotearoa SDG Summits were inspired by acknowledging the leading role universities need to play in climate action as well as the need to collaborate across sectors to drive meaningful change for the SDGs. The Summits bring together civil society, government, the business community, youth, with strong mana whenua and Pasifika input, and help to shape a uniquely Aotearoa New Zealand response.
The third national SDGs Summit Series was co-hosted by the University of Canterbury (UC) and Lincoln University (LU) with Ara Institute of Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council, supported by Tourism New Zealand, Te Pokai Tara | Universities New Zealand, ChristchurchNZ, Seeds podcast and New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.
In early 2020, New Zealand experienced its first cases of COVID-19, and the country went into lockdown. Planning for the third national SDGs Summit Series commenced in this context. The concept quickly evolved into hosting an online SDG Summit Series, to be capped off by a two-day in-person event in Ōtautahi Christchurch in 2021.
The idea was to maintain momentum in uncertain event-planning times, while providing enough time to canvas a wide variety of ideas and projects supporting work towards the SDGs. This would also create space to develop a community of practice or network of parties interested in working together to advance the SDGs. This network, or Alliance as it came to be known, would take a Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi )-led governance approach, and be fundamentally multi-sectoral.
The planned two-day in-person event could not be held due to another nationwide lockdown in August and September of 2021. Instead, the two-day event was condensed into a one-day online event, followed by a two-hour special session the following day.
Overall, the third national Aotearoa SDGs Summit Series consisted of the following:
Online #1: See the Change (November 2020 – 2 hours)
This hui focused on the voices of Youth. Presentations included:
- Students spoke about ecological restoration work at a local marae and becoming a climate activist at a young age.
- Lucy Gray, a leader of New Zealand’s Strike4Climate organisation, performed an original song.
- Academics spoke to the significant data gaps that limit how we can understand national progress on the SDGs, and on an approach taken to conceptualise a regional SDG implementation wellbeing project.
- Two workshops followed: exploring the importance of visual storytelling, and an overview of SDGs in the context of international sustainability agreements.
Over 100 people attended.
Online #2: Be the Change (March 2021 – 2.5 hours)
The second event picked up on themes touched on in the first hui, and delved deeper into them. Presentations included:
- An overview of a SDG dashboard project, and of how the NZ Government was performing on the SDGs.
- Two panel discussions followed on Sustainable Food Production Systems and on Te Tiriti and the SDGs, and also featured a young farmer who is studying sustainability at LU.
- A workshop then followed, led by the Sustainable Business Council, exploring ways businesses are incorporating sustainability into their processes, and the event concluded with a lively debate on ‘green washing’.
Over 100 people attended.
Online #3: Working Together For Change (June 2021 – 2.5 hours)
Designed to focus primarily on Pasifika and Youth issues. Presentations included:
- An update on two SDG Alliance workshops that had occurred since the second hui in March.
- Two panel discussions then followed. One discussion focused on sustainable development issues in the Pacific, pointing to the problematic nature of tick box measurement and ranking exercises. Community voices were heard, as described by the University of the South Pacific, and the connections between Aotearoa and its Māori population and various peoples of the Pacific were shared.
- The second discussion highlighted the importance of children’s and young people’s voices being included in decision-making processes and involved key participation from a representative of the NZ Office of the Children’s Commission.
100 people attended
Virtual Summit (2-3 September 2021, one-day event)
The team pivoted to host a virtual event due to Covid-19 lockdowns. This opened the event to those beyond Ōtautahi Christchurch and attracted a national audience. The initial allocation of 500 tickets was snapped up within days.
Registrations were capped at 770 (with a waitlist of 233). The highest number of participations during the day in a session was 489. Participants chose their interactive workshop pathways. There were also project showcases, and importantly, an official signing of a SDG Summit Declaration for Aotearoa.
The virtual summit commenced with an opening address by the New Zealand Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister for Local Government, Manaia Mahuta. The UC and LU Vice-Chancellors delivered welcomes to the event.
Two, comprehensive, Interactive Workshops sessions followed, each with seven presentation pathways. The first Workshop pathways were:
- Understanding the Treaty as a Framework for the Future for all of us.
- The Role of Tertiary Institutions in Delivery of the SDGs.
- The Gerontological Imagination – Unifying through Our Age Differences.
- Innovation, Entrepreneurship and the Circular Economy.
- Statistics NZ’s Ngā Tutohu Aoteatora Wellbeing Indicator Framework.
- Rain Forest & Rights Projection – West Papua as a Pacific case study.
- Office of the Auditor General (presentation given by the Audits Performance Manager); Collaborating for a Better Future – Forming an SDG Alliance for Aotearoa through Collective Pou Approach.
The second Workshop pathways were:
- How critical is collaboration in system change and the conditions necessary for success?
- Education 2030 – An intergenerational Conversation on Revisioning Education in Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Design for Conservation toolkit.
- Utilising systems thinking to address waste minimisation and support SDG localisation in Canterbury.
- Innovating for change – entrepreneurship, Asia and the SDGs.
- Foreseeable Future – seamless integration of data to enhance climate and disaster risk reduction.
- Te Tiriti-based Climate Assemblies for Aotearoa New Zealand.
Project showcases were on:
- Masters of the SDGs with Massey University.
- Virtual Reality Experiential Education for Sustainability with Victoria University of Wellington; School of Teacher Education SDGs Research & Writing Group with UC.
- Ten New Myths for Humanity; Creating a circular economy at Auckland University of Technology.
- Art Activism as Change Agent for Sustainability.
- Sparking rangatahi’s curiosity to solve climate challenges through hands-on solar power programmes with Kia Kotahi Ako;
- Cantabrians developing climate resiliency through ecosystem restoration with Braid (Braided River Aid).
- Future Living Skills with Sustainable Living Education Trust.
- Acclimatising to higher ground: the realities of life of a Pacific Atoll People with UC.
- Impact Collective: Rangitikei, Ruapehu, South Taranaki and Whanganui with Impact Collective.
- Sustainable economic growth for a more prosperous Ōtautahi Christchurch – using the SDGs at ChristchurchNZ.
- Why Storytelling Matters with Seeds Podcast.
The virtual summit closing ceremony was attended by 290 people, with addresses given by senior leadership staff from the Universities of Canterbury, Lincoln, Waikato, Ara Institute of Canterbury, and an address from Councillor Sara Templeton from the Christchurch City Council.
Virtual Interactive Workshops (two-hour special session following the virtual summit)
This special panel session focused on Research Challenges in Meeting Future Climate Change Emissions Targets, with Dr Rod Carr, Chair of New Zealand’s Climate Change Commission, as a special panel member. The panel’s purpose was to stimulate a conversation on how we can make a difference in solving the challenge of future climate change emissions targets through research. 154 people attended.