Antarctic Science Conference 2015: The changing environment

Earlier in the year three council members, Chris Kraus, Ngahuia Leighton, and Bella Duncan (now former) attended the bi-annual Antarctic Science Conference. The event was hosted by Canterbury University and the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI). The conference provided an opportunity for the Antarctic research community to come together, share their research and the progress they are making on understanding the scientific challenges relevant to this community.

The conference theme was the changing environment. This provided for interesting insights as researchers explained what the changes in Antarctica meant for them and their research areas from changing ice sheets, ocean-ice interactions, biological indicators of change to human presence in Antarctica.

The volume of research being produced out of Antarctica by scientists based in New Zealand was staggering. The science community is producing good quality scientific research about the area, and doing so under considerable pressures. Throughout the conference we heard of how research was conducted. It is the norm for those within the community but for someone new to the area the difficulties (albeit, exciting) were apparent. These included the strain of working in extreme conditions, the weather windows available to collect data and the resource constraints. Chris and Bella have experienced firsthand the constraints that apply to scientists wanting to study within the region, but it was really brought to life for Ngahuia. Dr. Richard O’Driscoll from NIWA gave a fantastic presentation on an ecosystems voyage made earlier in the year – video footage of the trip can be viewed here.

Throughout the conference, as we talked to those within the community, we heard that there is a desire for engagement between youth and the science community. There were many talented people with the willingness and ability to contribute and build a platform for this engagement and certainly no shortage of interesting information to share. The challenge in 2016 for the NZAYC, will be to develop this space in a way that helps the Antarctic science community share this knowledge and research with youth around New Zealand.
The council members presented a poster on behalf of the NZAYC. The abstract and poster can be found below.20150626 AYC poster small

Antarctica and the Southern oceans hold important scientific and historical context for New Zealand, yet for many people the Antarctic appears irrelevant to everyday life. Although Antarctica is one of the closer continents geographically to New Zealand, its inaccessibility for most people creates a sense of mystery and distance far beyond that of any other continent in the world. The New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council Incorporated (NZAYC) was recently formed to open communication channels and to raise awareness about Antarctica amongst young people in New Zealand. The NZAYC aims to focus on three key areas: education, policy and science. A resource offered by the McGuinness Institute in the initial stages of the NZAYC formation highlighted many of the existing New Zealand organisations involved with Antarctica and the Southern oceans and their levels of engagement with New Zealand youth. The types of organisations presented in this list included scientific, exploratory, conservation and a small number of tourism focused organisations. For many of these, engagement with New Zealand youth was not a primary focus. Looking to the future, the NZAYC would like to increase the levels of engagement offered to New Zealand youth to connect with Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. As the NZAYC is still within the initial stages of development, the council are open to suggestions and new connections between themselves and those already working on areas of interest in Antarctica and the Southern oceans.


Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council.

What is the NZAYC?
The New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council is a group of young New Zealanders aged 18 to 30 who share an interest in the Antarctic region. The Council seeks to provide New Zealand youth with a platform for engagement with issues surrounding the Antarctic and Southern oceans.

What is the Council’s purpose?
The purpose of the NZAYC is to open and strengthen communication channels, providing opportunities for New Zealand youth to engage with the diverse issues affecting Antarctica. The Council’s initial focus will be to facilitate the flow of knowledge to New Zealand youth, in support of its future goals around empowering today’s youth to have an impact on public policy decisions.

These goals reflect the Council’s efforts to make the continent more accessible as a part of New Zealand’s national narrative and cultural heritage. Antarctica is a unique environment, so a unique approach to outreach – one that encompasses education, policy work and partnering with scientific organisations – is essential.

What areas does it focus on?
Awareness and Education
– bringing Antarctica to the attention of young New Zealanders. The Council is focused on developing ways to share the information and resources held within the Antarctica community. This is a necessary step in fostering an environment for youth engagement in this area.

Public Policy ­– enabling a youth voice to be heard at a decision-making level to influence public policy. This is a long-term goal; once a youth knowledge base has been established, the potential for youth engagement in this area will increase greatly.

What does the Council hope to achieve?
The Council hopes to achieve greater youth engagement around Antarctic and Southern oceans issues that affect New Zealand. This will involve facilitating a local youth conversation that explores creative and durable solutions to these issues, and collaborating internationally with groups that have similar concerns. It is hoped that this sharing of skills and resources internationally will help to inspire the creation of other environmental youth councils in places where such representation is lacking.

How will the Council achieve this?
The 2016 work programme is currently a work in progress. Prior to the annual event in July, the Council hopes to create fact sheets on Antarctic Ice Sheets and the Antarctic Treaty as part of its educational resource development. The 2016 annual event will be a Winter Forum titled Implications of the Antarctic Treaty: Our shared future. We plan to have a panel session for this discussion.

Over the coming year the Council will also be working hard to expand its community and outreach. If you are interested in connecting with the Council, or in joining as a member, please contact Chair Ngahuia Leighton at

For what benefit?
At present, knowledge and awareness of the Antarctic and Southern oceans among policy makers and the general public of New Zealand is low. Raising awareness and creating a conversation amongst young people (as agents for change) will be of benefit to all New Zealanders. A continuous conversation needs to be in place to produce durable solutions and to develop foresight that is of use to New Zealand decision-makers.

What is the Organising Committee?
The Organising Committee of the NZAYC meets quarterly and keeps the wider community of Council members informed and connected between annual plenary events. It is made up of a diverse range of committee members, from law and politics students to scientists with research based in Antarctica. The committee is intended to represent the diversity of the council at large, bringing to the table the wide range of opinions and perspectives of young people with a vested interest in the Antarctic region.

Who is on the Organising Committee?
As of December 2015, the committee is made up of 11 members: Ngahuia Leighton (Chair), Jacob Anderson, Georgina Beasley, Rongo A Whare Bennett, Peggy Cunningham-Hales, Christoph Kraus, Hanne Nielsen, James Tremlett, Lagi Tuimavave, Miranda Voke and Charlie Wilkinson. You can read each member’s bio here.

Contributors to the committee so far include Bella Duncan (former chair), Sira Engelbertz, Wendy McGuinness, Tim Naish, Stuart Prior and Lionel Carter.

What did the Council achieve in 2015?
So far, 2015 has seen the Council develop a constitution, and in December it will register as an incorporated society. The Council held a workshop in May to develop the work programme going forward. As a result of this workshop, the Council created the poster Antarctic and Southern Ocean change: Impact and implications for New Zealand, which was presented during a poster session at the 2015 Antarctic Science Conference held in Christchurch from 29 June to 2 July 2015. The poster illustrates the impacts of climate change on Antarctica and the consequences of this for everyday New Zealanders.

The Antarctic education space was discussed during the workshop. The creation of the poster is one example of how the Council may be able to contribute to Antarctic education in New Zealand over time, but this is an ongoing conversation. Further exploration of how to take this forward will continue into 2016.

How is the Council funded?
The NZAYC began as an initiative of the McGuinness Institute’s Project: One Ocean. The McGuinness Institute continues to provide administrative, financial and advisory support for the Council. The Institute also provides design support to help create outputs, such as the poster mentioned above, which was published in June 2015.

As the Council continues to grow, it will seek funding and support from other organisations as the need arises, and will work to establish partnerships with domestic and international agencies to promote its activities.

How can you be involved?
The Organising Committee is continuously seeking to grow the community of young people committed to the sustainable long-term future of the Antarctic and to the protection of our shared Antarctic heritage. By becoming a member of the NZAYC, you will receive updates on the Committee’s work and invitations to the Council’s annual events. If you are interested in connecting with the Council or in joining as a member, please contact Chair Ngahuia Leighton at

We are also looking for organisations that share our vision and that are interested in assisting or supporting the NZAYC. Such involvement could include the provision of financial support, venues, scientific expertise, guest speakers, or legal and marketing advice. Please contact Wendy McGuinness at to discuss this further.

Professor Lionel Carter is presented the 2015 Hutton Medal!

Good news, Professor Lionel Carter, a helper of the Council, was presented with the 2015 Hutton Medal.

Lionel advised and wrote the foreword in the McGuinness Institute One Ocean report, which was published earlier this year. He also continues to guide the Institute’s work programme on ocean management and support the Council.

The Medal is awarded annually by the Royal Society of New Zealand. It recognises outstanding research in earth, plant and animal sciences. The Hutton Medal adds to Professor Carter’s other honours, including receiving the Marsden Medal for outstanding service to Science in 2012. He currently works at the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University where he investigates geological and oceanic processes, which includes deciphering marine geological records to assess changes in ocean environments. His work has demonstrated the roles of plate tectonics, ocean currents, sea levels and climate change in shaping New Zealand’s submarine continental landmass.

Also see Lionel at the launch of the One Oceans report here on our YouTube channel.

Congratulations Lionel; what a beautiful medal!

Hutton Medal (Front)Hutton Medal (Back)

The medal in bronze, depicts on the obverse the late Professor Frederick Wollaston Hutton FRS and on the reverse, a tuatara ( Sphenodon ) and kiwi ( Apteryx ), with a background of New Zealand plants ( Celmisia Phormium Cordyline ) framing a landscape with an active volcano.

The McGuinness Institute’s Think Piece 22: Proposal for the Creation of an Oceans Institution is now published!

The McGuinness Institute has published Think Piece 22: Proposal for the Creation of an Oceans Institution. This think piece suggests that one key building block necessary to deliver robust ocean governance is missing – an oceans institution.

This new government institution would act as both a chronicler and a steward of ocean policy. It would become the central landing pad for all aspects of ocean policy. It is important to note that we do not envisage this new institution as a decision-making body or one that would undertake scientific research, nor as a lobbyist for special-interest groups. Instead it would focus on chronicling the narrative (sharing data, information and strategic knowledge about our oceans) and stewardship (collating and integrating information to inform all stakeholders and suggest effective and durable public policy making). This would create a space for collaboration and creativity, enabling policy to be developed with stakeholders over time and providing New Zealanders with durable public policy that delivers certainty and trust.

The think piece includes a list of FAQ’s and outlines a timeline of key events and legislation from 1990 to 2015. To download Think Piece 22 see the McGuinness Institute’s website. To read more about the think piece see the McGuinness Institute’s blog post.

New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council (NZAYC) Chair, Ngahuia Leighton, was involved in the consultative process and discussion sessions that lead to the publication of Think Piece 22. The NZAYC is an initiative of the McGuinness Institute’s Project One Ocean.

Background to Think Piece 22
Following the publication of Report 10: One Ocean: Principles for the stewardship of a healthy and productive ocean, the McGuinness Institute sought to further its work on New Zealand ocean management. The discussion and launch event in Auckland on 12 May 2015 set the direction for our work going forward. The Institute has since held two round-table events to explore what a proposed oceans institution might look like. Think Piece 22: Proposal for the Creation of an Oceans Institution is the result of this consultative process. You can learn more about each event and the outputs here.

NZ Antarctic Youth Council Develop a Working Plan

The New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council held a workshop on 23 May at the Institute to discuss ways forward for the Council in the Antarctic education space.

The Council heard from guest Speaker Professor Tim Naish, Director of the Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, as he explained the consequences of changes to the Antarctic climate for New Zealand and the globe. Professor Naish emphasised the important role the Council could have in shaping public awareness and New Zealand policy.

The Council also heard from their fellow Council member, Jacob Anderson, who gave an overview of Antarctic science to ensure all members have a comprehensive knowledge of the Antarctic. The Council has a diverse range of members, from Antarctic specialists to law and politics students. This ensures the Council is representative and has a diverse range of opinions and perspectives. See the committee members on our website.

This workshop grew from a meeting held in March where the Council’s Constitution was established and guest speaker Stuart Prior, founder of Prior Group, discussed the importance of global leadership from New Zealand.

The Council is currently in the development stage of creating a poster for the Antarctic Science Conference held in late June. The poster will illustrate the impacts of climate change on Antarctica and the consequences of this for everyday New Zealanders. It will be the first promotional work from the Youth Council, and we hope it will inspire youth to find out more about the Council’s work.

The successful workshop resulted in a working plan for the coming year. This will involve an exploration of the Antarctic education space in New Zealand classrooms, looking to provide resources for teachers and students to engage with Antarctica and the consequences of climate change.

The Council will formally launch later this year and is continuously seeking interest from scientists, communicators and environmental advocates aged 18–30 who are committed to the protection of our shared Antarctic heritage. If you are interested in connecting with the Council, or joining as a member, please see their website – – or contact Co-Chairs Ngahuia Leighton or Bella Duncan at

group photo
The Council’s ‘Post it’ session to develop ideas
Jacob & whiteboard
Jacob sketching poster concepts










A Youth Council for Antarctica

As a Southern Hemisphere nation with a long history of Antarctic exploration and research, New Zealand has a responsibility to promote the sustainable long-term management of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.


Unfortunately, knowledge and awareness of this region among policy makers and the general public in New Zealand is low. We place great emphasis on the role of young people as agents for sustainable change, and believe that greater inclusion of youth in issues surrounding Antarctica is critical. Cities and regions throughout New Zealand have youth councils which work to integrate the voices and perspectives of young people into local government.

The Institute sees a need for a similar national forum for committed and passionate youth to contribute towards New Zealand’s role in the Antarctic. We would therefore like to invite expressions of interest from people between the ages of 18-30 interested in being part of such a council. If this sounds like you or somebody you know, contact James Tremlett on

In association with a number of partner agencies, the Institute will bring a group of young people together to participate in a planning workshop to develop a constitution later in the year. For more information about this initiative and for more ways to be involved, see our website at
20140904 AYC coming soon poster final