Out and about

COVID-19 network modelling trilogy

Elimination, Alert Level 2.5 and other non-pharmaceutical interventions

26 July 2021

The reports ‘Network modelling of elimination strategy pillars: Prepare for it, Stamp it out’; ‘Alert Level 2.5 is insufficient for suppression or elimination of COVID-19 community outbreak’; and ‘Contagion network modelling of effectiveness for a range of non-pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 elimination in Aotearoa New Zealand’ were sent to the New Zealand government on 9 December 2020, 15 February 2021, and 16 November 2020 respectively. The reports are presented here as a connected trilogy that are intended to be read in the order above.

Here is some background and context that might be of use to readers:

All three reports deal with the wild type variant of SARS-CoV2 that was common around the world (and in many cases in Aotearoa New Zealand) in the latter half of 2020. The transmissibility of SARS-CoV2 is commonly communicated via an R0 value. This value was around 2-3 for the wild type variant considered in this report.1 More recently a number of more transmissible variants of concern have emerged. The alpha and delta variants that were first noted in the United Kingdom and India, respectively, have R0 values that are around two and four times higher again than the wild type strain of SARS-CoV2. Hence, any control measures and results discussed in these reports will typically no longer apply with the current prevalence of these more transmissible strains.

The ‘Elimination strategy’ report considers the policy settings and possible interventions that can be used to prepare for the emergence of COVID-19 in the community in Aotearoa New Zealand. It then looks at the effectiveness of different Alert Level 3-like interventions in eliminating community transmission once it is detected. Pre-detection, the report focuses primarily on testing rates of symptomatic individuals in the community. Post-detection, a range of measures that could reduce transmission (e.g. closing workplaces, mask wearing) are considered, along with the effect of elevated community testing rates and contact tracing of exposed individuals. Many of the parameters for this report were estimated from the behaviour observed during the August 2020 outbreak in Auckland.

At the end of August 2020, at the tail end of the outbreak, Auckland dropped from Alert Level 3 (AL3) to Alert Level 2.5 (AL2.5), while there were still new cases of COVID-19 being found in the community.2 Despite this, the outbreak remained under control and was eventually eliminated. This raises the question of whether or not the less restrictive AL2.5 could have been used to eliminate a similar outbreak in future, rather than the more disruptive AL3.

The ‘Alert Level 2.5’ report addresses precisely this question. It finds that for a similar community outbreak, AL2.5 is most likely to result in suppression, but not elimination-like behaviour. The probability of elimination under AL2.5 is strongly linked to the outbreak size at initial detection. Outbreaks with ten or fewer total cases (including unknown cases) at the time of alert level elevation have an approximately 60% chance of being eliminated within 150 days of detection, while if the outbreak size is 11 or more at the point when alert levels are elevated, the probability of elimination falls to under 12%.

The fact that a period of AL2.5 did lead to elimination while community cases were still being discovered at the tail-end of the Auckland August outbreak may be explained either by good luck (i.e. a very low probability but successful elimination event) or, more likely, by the preceding period of AL3. During AL3, high levels of contact tracing and testing may have essentially ring-fenced the outbreak. In such a scenario, individuals in the vicinity of the existing cluster would effectively remain at a higher Alert Level while the rest of Auckland moved to level 2.5.

Both the ‘Elimination strategy’ and the ‘Alert Level 2.5’ reports consider a number of different variations of the AL3 and AL2.5 interventions, such as improved contact tracing processes due to increased rates of QR code scanning or adoption of Bluetooth contact tracing.

The final report of this trio, ‘Modelling of effectiveness for a range of non-pharmaceutical interventions’, looks at a large number of combinations of transmission reduction interventions at four levels of strictness (none, partial, increased, and strict) for workplace and community, and three levels (none, partial, and closure) for schools. For example, closing schools but not workplaces, while mandating mask-wearing indoors would approximately match the closure of schools, and ‘partial’ control in workplaces and communities.

The purpose of this report is not so much to design alternative Alert Levels, but rather to provide a sensitivity analysis. This analysis can be used to infer some coarse bounds on the types of behaviour that might be expected in the previous two reports if parameters were adjusted, or if assumptions were modified. Even though this report was produced in advance of its two companions, it is presented here as an add-on that may help to quantify any uncertainty or variation in the more realistic scenarios of the first two reports.

Footnotes

 

  1. We do not directly use R0 to parameterise infectivity or transmissibility in our contagion model. Rather, we characterise transmissibility with the parameter beta – the average number of infections per person per unit time, which is calibrated against the generation time. R0 is related to beta by: R0 = beta/gamma, where gamma is the rate per unit time at which individuals are removed from the infectious state(s).
  2. Covid-19: What happened in New Zealand on 31 August – Radio New Zealand

 

Read the reports

 

PhD scholarship on system change to reverse health inequality and environmental degradation – Ki te toi o te ora

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD scholarship to explore system change to reverse health inequality and environmental degradation.

Health, wellbeing and the environment are intertwined through complex relationships, but research, policy and governance systems tend to treat them as separate areas of knowledge and action. Recognition of these fundamental interrelationships is becoming more widespread in Aotearoa New Zealand as Māori continue to revive and promote traditional knowledge and cultural practices, and as global systems are tested by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The social processes and relationships involved in producing inequality affect both health (such as life expectancy) and environmental outcomes (such as climate change). This research will explore what the common influences are, and what this means for producing change to reverse trends in both.

You will work with diverse stakeholders to map the key factors, actors and influences contributing to inequality, health and the environment in Aotearoa New Zealand. You will then work with a research team using the results to identify levers for system change and develop better ways to prioritise and evaluate actions.

Eligibility

This scholarship is only open to current residents of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. We are happy to consider students from a diverse range of fields. An interest in systems methods will be an advantage for this project, but prior knowledge is not required.

The successful candidate will hold, or expect to complete soon, a masters degree, or similar, in a relevant discipline. Experience and knowledge in one or more of the areas of health and its determinants, inequality and environment would be helpful.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply and we especially encourage Māori and Pasifika to apply.

Location

You will be part of an excellent, passionate and experienced team of researchers who will be available to co-supervise, or act as advisors to the research, depending on your needs and skills. You will be enrolled with the School of Health at Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington but there is flexibility both in supervision and where you can be based, such as an action partner within an iwi/hapū or community organisation, or within the academic community of any of your supervisor’s institutions.

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Te Pūnaha Matatini has an active whānau group which supports early career researchers, committed to the Te Pūnaha Matatini values of manaakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga, offering supportive tuakana / teina learning environments.

Contact

Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,500 per year (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be between November 2021 and March 2022.

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to Dr Anna Matheson at anna.matheson@vuw.ac.nz.

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by 31 October 2021 will receive full consideration.

Masters scholarship on fake news and real science

Applications are invited for a fully funded masters scholarship to explore public mistrust in science in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Liberal democracies are currently experiencing an anti-science backlash. There is a proliferation of ‘fake news’, and algorithm-driven newsfeeds reinforce people’s biases. At the same time a declining pool of trained science journalists is matched by a rise in science PR. Increasingly, people don’t know who or what to believe.

In this project, you will investigate how anti-science groups in Aotearoa New Zealand use the language, markers, and tools of science and technology to establish credibility and promote their messages.

You will work on tracking the spread of disinformation on science-related topics through the news media and identifying anti-science communities, key influencers and online amplifiers of anti-science messages for further study.

Eligibility

You will need to meet the requirements for a one-year Master of Science by thesis at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. Your background could be in number of disciplines, including but not limited to science in society; statistics and data science; computer science; media studies; communications; science communication; history or philosophy.

Depending on your background, strengths and interests, your work may include reading online sources, quantitative and qualitative textual analysis, network analysis, sentiment analysis, and summarising different research strands.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of underrepresented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research team aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive research environment.

Location

You will be based at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. You will be jointly supervised by Professor Richard Arnold (School of Mathematics and Statistics) and Associate Professor Rebecca Priestley (Centre for Science in Society). You will also work with researchers associated with The Disinformation Project led by Kate Hannah at the University of Auckland.

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Contact

Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$17,000 (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be March 2022 (up until June 2022 by negotiation).

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to richard.arnold@msor.vuw.ac.nz.

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by 20 January 2022 will receive full consideration.

PhD scholarship on mathematical modelling of te reo Māori

Nau mai ngā hua o te wānanga! Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD scholarship to work on a project on mathematical modelling of te reo Māori (the Māori language).

There have been numerous interventions over the last 40 years to stop the decline of te reo Māori as part of a movement to revitalise the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2018, the New Zealand Government set a national target of one million speakers of te reo Māori by 2040, and 150,000 Māori using te reo as their primary language. However, there have been no reports in recent history that provide a complete picture of the health of te reo Māori and its revitalisation, so we are in the dark as to our ‘starting point’, let alone our best strategy to reach this goal.

This project will develop and validate a dynamic mathematical model to improve our understanding of the current trajectory of the Māori language in terms of the number of speakers and what impact possible interventions may have on that trajectory. This will help identify what resources and strategies are required to meet government targets and support self-determined community approaches.

We will use this model to test the effect of various interventions, such as making te reo Māori a compulsory part of the school curriculum, prioritising language immersion schooling, and investing in teachers. Our modelling will draw upon expert knowledge in Māori language revitalisation and comparable interventions that have been implemented for other endangered languages, such as Welsh.

Eligibility

This scholarship is only open to current residents of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. Students from a diverse range of fields are encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will hold, or expect to complete soon, an honours or masters level qualification, including some advanced-level study of mathematics, statistics, or a closely related subject. A strong interest in te reo Māori and/or language revitalisation is essential, but no formal prior knowledge is required.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of under-represented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research group aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive scientific environment.

Location

The best place for you to be based during your studies is at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, although there is flexibility on this. You will be jointly supervised by Professor Michael Plank (School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury) and Dr Rachael Ka’ai-Mahuta (Te Ipukarea Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology).

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Te Pūnaha Matatini has an active whānau group which supports early career researchers, committed to the Te Pūnaha Matatini values of manaakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga, offering supportive tuakana / teina learning environments.

Contact

Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,500 per year (tax free)

Start date

  • February 2022

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to Michael Plank at michael.plank@canterbury.ac.nz or Rachael Ka’ai-Mahuta at rachael.kaai-mahuta@aut.ac.nz.

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled.

PhD scholarship on Kindness in Science in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ehara tāku toa i te toa takitahi, ēngari he toa takitini
My strength does not come from me alone but from the collective

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship to examine the scientific community of Aotearoa New Zealand in the context of the Kindness in Science movement.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, diverse participation in the science community – including the participation of Māori and Pasifika scholars – remains low. The scientific community urgently needs to develop and adopt a culture of inclusion, or kindness, which sustains the robust discourse essential for science and does not come at the expense of the dignity of those who participate. Our hypothesis is that such a culture will not only enhance wellbeing for all members of the science community but will also lead to better science outcomes by enabling much broader participation and diverse knowledges to be considered. This project will explore how marginalisation takes place for many groups, including Indigenous Peoples, as well as practices and contexts that enable and engender participation in science.

With our support, you will learn how to analyse data using a mixed-methods approach to undertake a comparative study grounded in the Kindness in Science movement, which originated in Aotearoa New Zealand. It will build on previous work by Te Pūnaha Matatini on the impact of science funding and the dynamics of scientific citation patterns, and include a documentary source analysis to be conducted in an aligned project.

Eligibility

This scholarship is only open to current residents of New Zealand and Australia. We are happy to consider students from a diverse range of fields including geography, anthropology, and sociology, and a familiarity with mixed methods research is desirable. The successful candidate will hold, or expect to complete soon, an honours or masters degree, or similar, in their disciplinary area. Most importantly, you will enjoy working with data and as part of a collaborative and inclusive team.

Applicants from all countries and backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of underrepresented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research group aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive and supportive scientific environment.

Location

Ideally you will be based in Auckland at the University of Auckland, although the University of Canterbury in Christchurch may also be an option. You would be jointly supervised by Dr Emma Sharp (University of Auckland), Associate Professor Tammy Steeves (University of Canterbury), Professor Shaun Hendy (University of Auckland), and Dr Leilani Walker (AUT).

The PhD position will be embedded within Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together ‘many faces’ – different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and crucially, people – to define, and then solve, society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Te Pūnaha Matatini has an active whānau group which supports early career researchers, committed to the Te Pūnaha Matatini values of manaakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga, offering supportive tuakana / teina learning environments.

Contact

Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,500 per year (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be between February 2022 and June 2022.

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to Emma Sharp at el.sharp@auckland.ac.nz.

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by 31 October 2021 will receive full consideration.

Complexity is at the heart of Te Pūnaha Matatini

Complexity is at the heart of Te Pūnaha Matatini

Photo: New director of Te Pūnaha Matatini, Associate Professor Cilla Wehi (R) with new deputy director Dr Mike O’Sullivan (L).

1 July 2021

The next phase of Te Pūnaha Matatini begins today, as Associate Professor Cilla Wehi takes over as our new director.

Cilla has bold aims to build upon the transdisciplinary community that was created under the leadership of founding director Professor Shaun Hendy. “It’s done really well up until now and I think we want to build on that,” she says.

“Our aim is to reimagine what research looks like, and provide a platform to make intellectual leaps that are important here in Aotearoa New Zealand, but also globally.”

Te Pūnaha Matatini is a transdisciplinary Centre of Research Excellence in complex systems that brings together researchers throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

New deputy director Dr Mike O’Sullivan agrees that “Te Pūnaha Matatini has built a really great community. The value of that community wasn’t well understood until COVID-19 hit, and then its value became quickly apparent at an international level.”

Shaun’s tenure as inaugural director culminated with Te Pūnaha Matatini receiving the 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize for our work developing a series of mathematical models, analysing data and communicating the results to inform the New Zealand Government’s world-leading response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The success of this work very publicly validated the emphasis that Te Pūnaha Matatini has placed on values, expertise and communication since our establishment in 2015.

Cilla says that she wants to build upon this foundation to continue to contribute to positive societal change. “We’ve got data analytics to create new knowledge for transformative change and we’ve got a vision of the kind of society that we would like to be part of in the future.”

Researchers in Te Pūnaha Matatini’s community often work in the gaps between disciplines, which is where Cilla says the most exciting ideas often emerge.

“Te Pūnaha Matatini has intellectual curiosity, and we’ve got a suite of tools that can be used to address some of the big challenges that New Zealand faces globally, so we really can push out boundaries.”

Mike is excited about supporting Cilla in her leadership role. “Cilla has clear ideas about the things she wants to do,” says Mike. “But she’s good at listening as well.”

“And she’s not afraid to agitate a little bit.”

 

Photo: Te Pūnaha Matatini Kaumātua Associate Professor Tom Roa.

Another fundamental source of support for Cilla in this leadership role is the wisdom and guidance of Te Pūnaha Matatini Kaumātua, Associate Professor Tom Roa.

“I’ve known Tom a long time,” says Cilla. “He’s the most fantastic person to discuss ideas with because he has really deep insight, and brings a wealth of knowledge from Māori contexts that has relevance and can really help us to see the best path forward.”

Tom shared a kōrero from his iwi Ngatī Maniapoto that underpins Te Pūnaha Matatini’s approach. When the kawau (shag or cormorant) flock for flight, they form an arrow shape, which allows them to collectively punch through headwinds. As leaders tire, those behind them move up to the front.

Cilla explains that “if you align yourselves as a group then you can punch through these difficult problems in a way that you could never do as one person alone. But also, when the leading birds get tired they step back and others come forward. So we’re growing people to step up. This is a group effort, and we are in it together.”

One of the key purposes of Te Pūnaha Matatini is to develop new researchers.

Cilla explains that “it’s become really clear over the last few years how important it is to do not only collaborative research but ethical research. There’s a much stronger focus now on working in partnership with our communities, and on our responsibility to communicate evidence. So we want to train researchers who are collaborative and ethical, and are great at both working with data and working with people.”

“It’s about contributing to future research, but also the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

“Complexity is at our heart,” concludes Cilla. “We build community across disciplines to solve complex problems.”

A COVID-19 vaccination model for Aotearoa New Zealand

30 June 2021

Executive summary

  • We use a mathematical model to estimate the effect of New Zealand’s vaccine rollout on the potential spread and health impacts of COVID-19 and the implications for controlling border-related outbreaks.
  • The model can be used to estimate the theoretical population immunity threshold, which represents a point in the vaccination rollout at which we could relax border restrictions with few or no controls in place and see only small occasional outbreaks.
  • While there are significant uncertainties in R0 for new variants, for a variant that would have R0=4.5 with no public health measures (e.g. the Alpha variant), the population immunity threshold is estimated to require 83% of the population to be vaccinated under baseline vaccine effectiveness assumptions. For a variant with R0=6.0 (e.g. the Delta variant), this would need to be 97%.
  • While coverage is below this threshold, relaxing controls completely would risk serious health impacts, including thousands of fatalities.
  • Whether or not New Zealand reaches a theoretical population immunity threshold, the higher vaccination coverage is, the more collective protection the population has against adverse health outcomes from COVID-19, and the easier it will become to control outbreaks.
  • Reaching or getting as close as possible to the population immunity threshold is very likely to require vaccinating at least some under-16-year-olds, subject to official approval for the vaccine to be used in these age groups.
  • There remains considerable uncertainty in model outputs, in part because of the potential for the evolution of new variants. If new variants arise that are more transmissible or vaccine resistant, an increase in vaccine coverage will be needed to provide the same level of protection.
  • A second important source of uncertainty arises because not all parts of the population will have equal vaccine coverage. Even if population immunity is achieved at a national level, communities with relatively low vaccine coverage or high contact rates will remain vulnerable to major outbreaks. These thresholds may also vary seasonally.
  • Until the vaccine rollout is complete, retaining the elimination strategy will protect people who have not yet been vaccinated and, by keeping cases to a minimum, decrease the likelihood that the alert level system will be needed to control future outbreaks.

Abstract

We present two implementations of an age-structured model for COVID-19 spread in Aotearoa New Zealand with a partially vaccinated population. The first is a deterministic SEIR model, useful for considering population-level dynamics and questions about population immunity. The second is a stochastic branching process, useful for considering smaller community outbreaks seeded by individual border arrivals. This builds on an earlier model used to inform the response to outbreaks of COVID-19 in New Zealand. The main purpose of this paper is to develop a model that can be used as the basis for policy advice on border restrictions and control measures in response to outbreaks that may occur during the vaccination roll-out. We consider a range of scenarios at different stages in the vaccine roll-out, including an unmitigated epidemic and contained local outbreaks. This work is intended to form a foundation for further COVID-19 vaccination modelling in New Zealand that will account for additional demographic variables.

 


Supplementary information [PDF 2.1MB]

PhD scholarship on feedback between humans, living things and artificial intelligence

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD scholarship to explore feedback between humans, living things and artificial intelligence (AI).

Researchers are increasingly seeking to solve complex problems using computer generated predictions. These predictions are often applied to living things such as crops for productivity, or pests or diseases for their management. However, we rarely consider how living things will further adjust in response to the changes caused in their environment by the application of the outputs from the AI. This project will develop tools to explore how management methods based on artificial intelligence can lead to unexpected consequences when applied to living things.

You will tackle these problems by integrating diverse sources of information. This could include quantitative methods, mathematical modelling, fieldwork and interviews with end users.

Eligibility

This scholarship is only open to current residents of New Zealand and Australia. We are happy to consider students from a diverse range of fields. At a minimum, some university level of mathematics familiarity with scientific computation is expected. An interest in ecology will be an advantage for this project, but no prior knowledge is required. The successful candidate will hold, or expect to complete soon, a masters degree, or similar, in a relevant discipline.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of underrepresented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research group aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive scientific environment.

Location

The best place for you to be based during your studies is Lincoln University (near Christchurch), New Zealand, although we can be flexible on this. You will be jointly supervised by William Godsoe (Lincoln, Bioprotection Research Centre), Claire Postlethwaite (Auckland, Mathematics) and Emma Sharp (Auckland, School of Environment).

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Contact

Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,500 per year (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be between August 2021 and March 2022.

How to apply

Send an email expressing your interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to William Godsoe at william.godsoe@lincoln.ac.nz.

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by 30 July 2021 will receive full consideration.

Dr Andrea Byrom honoured to accept new role as kairangi

Dr Andrea Byrom honoured to accept new role as kairangi

Ecologist and science leader Dr Andrea Byrom has accepted a role as kairangi in Te Pūnaha Matatini.

Kairangi is a Māori word meaning ‘the finest pounamu’, which can be used to describe a person held in high esteem. This role acknowledges the important contributions of our senior colleagues.

Dr Andrea Byrom has been involved with Te Pūnaha Matatini as an associate investigator since the early days, and has contributed at many hui and supervised several early career researchers. She is currently co-supervising Te Pūnaha Matatini Whānau member Julie Mugford in the final stages of her thesis, alongside Associate Professor Alex James and Professor Michael Plank.

The project that Andrea is most proud of being involved with at Te Pūnaha Matatini was exploring the biodiversity benefits of large-scale pest control regimes with Dr Rachelle Binny. Their work quantified significant benefits for biodiversity from pest control over two decades. Andrea says that “I’m proud to have contributed to that research because it really demonstrated how important science is to the environment, and why we do large-scale conservation efforts like pest control or ecological restoration.”

She also particularly enjoyed collaborating with Professor Shaun Hendy and a group of summer interns on network analyses of the many types of people and organisations involved in environmental protection in Aotearoa. “That was a real introduction to network analyses and some of the things Te Pūnaha Matatini had to offer that I had not previously thought of applying to te taiao the environment.”

Andrea recently resigned from her role as director of Ngā Koiora Tuku Iho New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge. She has been working in the New Zealand science system since joining Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research as a postdoctoral researcher in 1997.

Over two decades working at Manaaki Whenua Andrea moved away from directly doing her own research and into leadership roles, after becoming interested in how science leadership could empower scientists to do their work, rather than add more bureaucracy to their lives.

She says that she “really loved that leadership style”.

“What I liked most about being a director of a National Science Challenge was having a view across all of the amazing talent that we have in the New Zealand science system.”

Her directorial responsibilities meant that Andrea did not have as much time as she would like to devote to Te Pūnaha Matatini in recent years. “I’ve been on a separate journey from Te Pūnaha Matatini for the last wee while, so to come back in as a kairangi now is quite an honour.”

“In the last few years, my interests have broadened to thinking about how we take our Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership role seriously as scientists, and how we bring mātauranga Māori and kaupapa Māori research methods to the fore. I worked hard to facilitate a lot of that via the National Science Challenge and ended up in a co-director role in that area with Melanie Mark-Shadbolt.”

“I feel like the tide’s turning and that people are starting to listen. But it’s really important to put different perspectives and stories out there.”

After a demanding period as a director, Andrea is focusing on spending more time with her partner, as well as doing environment consultancy work and board roles. “I’m particularly interested in how important governance is to science and the environment. That’s my new passion, and as a kairangi I would like to contribute where I can – particularly around complex environmental research.”

“I love being a sounding board for students and I love coming to hui where there are great minds contributing things that I hadn’t thought of and ideas that I’m interested in.”

Since stepping back as a director, Andrea and her partner have been making the most of their time together by killing of a large amount of lawn on their half-hectare property in mid-Canterbury and replanting it with over 5,000 native plants.

How to kill your lawn with Andrea Byrom

  1. Acquire large quantities of cardboard boxes and flatten them
  2. Lay cardboard over lawn on non-windy day
  3. Cover cardboard with a whole lot of mulch
  4. Water it all down
  5. Leave for two months
  6. Replant with native plants

Links

Long-term biodiversity trajectories for pest-managed ecological restorations: eradication vs. suppression – Ecological Monographs

Fighting COVID-19 with the team of 5 million

Aotearoa New Zealand government communication during the 2020 lockdown

25 May 2021

This paper is under review and is currently available through First Look on SSRN to provide early access prior to publication.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is considered one of the best in the world. A major component of the response was the communication of public health measures. A reflexive thematic analysis of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s addresses to the nation and her daily press briefings with the Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, led us to identify three key themes:

  1. Open, honest and straightforward communication
  2. Distinctive and motivational language
  3. Expressions of care

We argue that the messages presented in the daily briefings supported the New Zealand Government’s COVID-19 elimination strategy through building trust with the audience and framing the ‘lockdown’ as an urgent, collective and meaningful cause, mobilising New Zealanders to support public health measures.