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Billionaire backs new Antarctic research institute

Published: 9:42AM Monday August 20, 2012 Source: ONE News

  •  (Source: ONE News)
    Source: ONE News

New York billionaire Julian Robertson has provided $5.3 million to launch a new science foundation that aims to accelerate global research on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean's role in climate change.

Prime Minister John Key is to formally announce the formation of the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI) at a ceremony at Premier House in Wellington.

The institute, which New Zealand will host, will be funded by some of the world's wealthiest philanthropic foundations.

Robertson has provided funds through his Aotearoa Foundation to launch the initiative.

NZARI's director, leading Antarctic scientist Professor Gary Wilson from Otago University, said Antarctica and the Southern Ocean hold the solutions to many of the key questions scientists and policymakers need to answer in order to manage the threats of climate change and global resource depletion.

"NZARI's goal is to strengthen Antarctic research capacity in New Zealand, through international collaboration on multi-disciplined research projects," Wilson said.

NZARI is closely aligned with Antarctica New Zealand, the crown agency responsible for providing logistic support for New Zealand scientists in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Antarctica New Zealand chairman Rob Fenwick, who will chair NZARI, said the model for the institute represented a significant advancement for science funding in New Zealand through a public private partnership.

Last year the Government adopted an Antarctic science strategy to order priorities for Antarctic research.

"It's expected Government funded projects through crown research institutes and universities will be strengthened by collaboration with NZARI projects," Fenwick said.

The international science community believes what happens on the Antarctic Continent over the next 50 years will be critical in predicting the human impacts of climate change.

"Through the strategic location of Scott Base and the excellent reputation of our New Zealand scientists, we've attracted interest from some international philanthropic foundations to develop a new and more collaborative model for Antarctic science based here," Fenwick said.

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