From the Desk of Helen Wilson, Research and Innovation Manager


Last week I attended the Hokitika launch of the GNS Science Geothermal Research project. This project aims to bring together what is known about the geothermal conditions in the Southern Alps and to scope the potential for using the geothermal resource.

The study aims to identify potential users of geothermal heat, possible locations, demand estimates, supply longevity and the indicative payback periods businesses would be looking for. Users could be existing businesses who currently use other fuels to produce the heat they require, or new enterprises that are yet to be established.

Over the last six months GNS Business Development Manager, Dave Jennings, has travelled throughout our region and held conversations with a long list of ‘stakeholders’ and potential ‘partners’, and has worked hard to build ‘relationships’. Dialogue with West Coast businesses, councillors, economic development practitioners, iwi and funders, all of whom are interested in gaining a better understanding and keeping abreast of the project, is accepted as a key part of the research process.

Over the last decade working in the world of DWC I have often been vexed by the clichéd use of the word ‘partnering’, and occasionally found the term ‘collaborating with stakeholders’ to be even more of a (sometimes annoying) enigma. But gradually I have come to realise that they do describe critical elements of achieving results.

The shelf behind my desk has quite a few research reports carried out in splendid isolation and now gathering dust. We paid for them, had the research done and published them. In hindsight they were not as useful as they could have been. Why? Largely because the end-users were not part of the process and consequently had very little reason to trust the results.

Collaboration, engagement, buy-in, having skin in the game - whatever you want to call it - is important. It keeps us interested, we (the group of partners, investors and stakeholders) are more likely to take notice of the results, to trust them and to make best use of them.

Fundamental to successful development is the conversations between people and their ability to agree to explore, learn and work together. All development hinges on a willingness of individuals to change what they think and to change behaviour. As the Maori proverb says, “He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. It is people, it is people, it is people.”

After the launch, the scientists and I drove south to Harihari. It was a beautiful Coast day and Mt Adams had a new sprinkling of snow. I introduced them to one of the locals and we enjoyed her stories of long ago, searching for the hot water and losing a digger in a deep hole in a paddock – something that is not foreign to GNS Science, I hear. The visitors learned at least one valuable new lesson - next time they will bring industrial strength sandfly repellent, but, more importantly, relationships were built.