Nuffield 2011 Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC)

There is no comprehensive report of the 2011 CSC available, so coverage takes the form of four reports by attending scholars. The first were extracted from the March 2011 Nuffield New Zealand newsletter.

CSC Wellington

Dick Davison and his small band of help-ers provided a stimulating start to the In-ternational Nuffield Class of 2011. On the 5th March the International Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference kicked off socially with registration and a get to-gether in the bar of an Upper Willis St hotel. Nuffield New Zealand had the privilege of hosting the conference for the first time since its inception three years ago.

Sunday and the group received an official welcome from conference organiser Dick Davison and International Chairman Peter Nixon. They set the scene for the conference covering topics and expectations. Each of the 45 scholars got a 2 minute slot to present themselves and their study topic to their peers. To further break the ice, an impromptu exercise was used to mix up the scholars and to complete a quick study on community issues from randomly chosen scholars. The session was well summarised by a couple of wise heads.

In the afternoon, although wet and dull outside, the quality of the speakers addressing the International Scholars were rays of sunshine on topics including International Trade, from New Zealand‟s Alistair Polson to emerging economies of Brazil and China from Milton Suzuki and James Su Hao. For northern hemisphere scholars a life without subsidies and trading realities outside the EU, were openly aired.

Monday‟s setting was in Te Papa and a Maori welcome set the tone for the second day in Wellington. Claudia Orange (CEO of Te Papa) gave a brief rundown on the Treaty of Waitangi and some of the conflicts New Zealand was attempting to grapple with. The speakers, Professor David Hughes, Chris Kelly, John Allen and Jacqueline Rowarth, challenged and interacted with the scholars. With a theme of "food production and economic gains verses environmental losses" prompted good discussion and hopefully a memorable experience from the day. The day was rounded off with a government welcome and an address from David Carter at a Parliamentary reception.

Tuesday was an early start to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton. Lunch was at Yealand Vineyard and Winery. Peter Yealand gave an understated overview of his operation and the special features he had incorporated into one of the most sustainable wineries and vineyards in the world. The final destination for the day was the Heritage in Hanmer Springs.

Unfortunately I had to leave the group there and return home. The time I had spent with the group was encouraging, invigorating, satisfying and thought provoking. Well done Dick, the conference was distinctly New Zealand and I believe it started the scholars on the right foot for their Nuffield journey.

Julian Raine

CSC South Island

A calm ferry trip to Picton and lunch at Yealands Winery allowed the scholars to talk amongst themselves and see a bit of Marlborough. The next four days were based at Hanmer Springs with a trip to Reefton and a visit to the gold mine and subsequent speakers from mining and conservation interests organised by Bruce Hamilton.

We were able to outline the challenges facing rural communities with local speakers from the Amuri district, with a BBQ evening sponsored by FMG that included a number of local farming couples.

Friday was designed to emphasize leadership with excellent addresses from John Palmer, Mark Inglis, Sam Johnson and Graham Robertson. You really had to be there, but from where I sat the day was inspirational.

It is a bit of a challenge to organise some 70 people for a week, and provide a variety of experiences that will live on in the memory of this year‟s best and brightest. The Nuffield reputation is such that those asked to speak went well out of their way to agree.

It has been a privilege to see the Contemporary Scholars Conference in New Zealand and my grateful thanks to Barbie Barton, Stuart Wright and Julian Raine for their support and to all those who provided their wisdom willingly and openly.

Dick Davison

 

The week spent on the CSC has again emphasised how big an opportunity the Nuffield Scholarship is and just how much this experience is going to change my view of the world and where the agriculture sits in various countries. I‟m sure the experience will alter my path through the industry and there will be doors that I cannot imagine now, open up in the future due directly to the Nuffield experience.

One of the things that I found most inspiring about the week was meeting the scholars from around the world and hearing their stories. It has started the process of opening my eyes to agriculture in other countries and their issues but also to how the agriculture industry fits into communities around the world.

The range of speakers throughout the week was excellent and I think they really highlighted some of the strengths of New Zealand and the New Zealand culture. It also increased my understanding of our country and different rural industries within which I have not had much to do with in the past such as the mining industry.

I thought the Friday session with Richard was fantastic as it emphasised the importance of the integrity of the work carried out and the standard of research that is required. I think that it also helped everyone to really think about how their individual project and how the results from this could be of benefit to the community and industry. It made us all think about what our role as a leader in our community and how not only the research itself but the skills developed can be used to help our local community and the greater industry. It was great to hear how people‟s topics have been moulded due to the discussions that had occurred throughout the week.

Not only did the CSC provide inspiration and enthusiasm but also fantastic contacts. The conference enabled contacts to be made globally and friendships to be forged. I know that having met these scholars I feel a lot more comfortable contacting not only scholars from my year but also past scholars whilst travelling around the world. It has also enforced the "Nuffield family" concept which I have heard so much about.

I left the CSC inspired and full of enthusiasm to get underway with my research. It has helped me to clarify my project and I have made some fantastic friendships in the process. I feel very honoured to have been selected for this opportunity and know that I have a life-changing year ahead!

Nicola Waugh

Speakers at the 2011 CSC were:

A personal perspective of the 2011 conference by Nuffield Ireland Scholar, Amii Cahill

Before leaving home for the 2011 Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference in New Zealand, we were sent each scholar's profile and it was hard to imagine how individuals involved in such diverse agricultural enterprises, in terms of both product and scale, would have much in common. However, it soon transpired that the issues impacting on many of us are similar across our businesses.

Day one involved all scholars giving a brief presentation on themselves and their area of study, followed by an exercise to understand each other's communities. This clearly showed that, although our communities are very different, the issues affecting them are very comparable. In my opinion this type of interaction was when we as a group benefitted most from the trip. Despite a lack of sleep being a common issue throughout the week, I feel the varied range of speakers managed to cater for the interest of all scholars.

As the group originated from all corners of the globe, there was of course an element of 'the same but different' thrown into discussions. Some items that caused a level of disagreement between attendees included GE (Genetically Enhanced) products, although ultimately agreement was reached on the need for a balanced and scientific approach to such technologies. Another related to the pros and cons of farming on a large scale. I did hear that old adage mentioned 'it's not size that matters, it's what you do with it', but I will leave you to draw your own conclusions on the origin of the statement.

Another issue that arose was how much focus the antipodean speakers directed towards China, as the most important route to market for agricultural products towards 2050. Others felt that, considering the Chinese drive to self sufficiency, other growing markets should not be ignored or underestimated in their importance. The cultural and economic differences affecting farm management, labour availability and access to land were discussed openly, as well as the impact of immigration and emigration and the resulting impact on the IQ and EQ (Emotional Quota) on the farms left behind.

The importance to New Zealanders of their culture, history and indigenous population was shown clearly from the start of the trip. That said the closest we got to a Haka demonstration was probably the boat race on the last night.

Conclusions

Parting thoughts on the CSC; the issues mentioned above are really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what was discussed. Based on what I have learned so far, I am looking forward to the coming year more so now than ever. My parting thoughts on New Zealand - roll on September.

Photos of the event are available on the Nuffield Australia web site

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