Group picture_SPREP and UoA
General News

9 April 2024, Apia, Samoa – The University of Auckland (UoA), through its Faculty of Engineering, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) have taken the first step to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties that will address research and development needs in Samoa and the Pacific. 

A delegation from UoA’s Maori and Pasifika Engineering Research Centre (MPERC) visited the SPREP headquarters in Apia as part of a week-long schedule of activities focusing on research and education. The delegation from the UoA included Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Jason Ingham; Dr. Kris Latu, Senior Lecturer; and Samoan PhD candidate, Mr Vensel Margraff. 

At SPREP, they met with the Acting Director General, Ms Easter Chu Shing, and Directors and representatives of SPREP’s technical programmes – Climate Change Resilience, Environmental Monitoring and Governance, Island and Ocean Ecosystems, and Waste Management and Pollution Control.

Ms Chu Shing welcomed the opportunity to progress the discussions on the MOU between the Secretariat and the University, stating that there are many instances where the work of the Secretariat requires engineering expertise and research, which the UoA’s Faculty of Engineering, through MPERC can collaborate on. 

“SPREP recognises the importance of research to the work that we do and how the outcomes of those research can be used to inform policies and decision making,” she said. 

“There is a real need for research, sustainable engineering solutions, and engineering expertise in our areas of work, and so there is a potential opportunity for SPREP and the UoA through its Faculty of Engineering to work together, as with other institutions that we have existing partnerships with,” Ms Chu Shing added. 

During his presentation, Dr Latu said the main objectives of the MPERC is to recognise and emphasise the importance of Matauranga Maori and Pasifika knowledge in contemporary engineering research and synergise engineering research activities in Aotearoa and the Pacific, with the ultimate goal of building the capacities of Maori and Pacific communities. 

Some of the work done by SPREP through its four technical programmes were highlighted during the discussion in a bid to map out possible collaboration opportunities for SPREP and the UoA through its Faculty of Engineering and MPERC.

A workshop with key stakeholders such as the National University of Samoa (NUS), government ministries such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (MWTI), and state-owned enterprises such as the Samoa Water Authority (SWA) joined by staff of SPREP was held immediately following the MOU discussions, with the aim of discussing key research needs in the Pacific and Samoa. 

As part of their education focus, they will be conducting outreach to tertiary and secondary students, with the hope to attract more students to pursue Engineering studies in order to build the capacity of Pacific island countries.