Taking a research and evidence-based approach – The Helen Clark Foundation, with Ian Blair

The Helen Clark Foundation is an independent, non-partisan think tank taking an evidence-based approach to stimulate public policy debate and action on issues facing our society. WSP New Zealand is committed to the Foundation. We caught up with WSP New Zealand's Managing Director, Ian Blair, to find out more.  

Ian Blair

What issues has the Foundation confronted? 

The work of the Foundation so far has focused on a range of environmental and societal issues. Their first report on climate change centred on the potential of green hydrogen production and the second report looked at reducing the harm that comes from some of the content that is posted on social media networks.  

The Foundation looked into the Christchurch mosque attacks, and last month, WSP joined the Foundation to produce a report on solving loneliness in society.  

They have also produced reports which aim to promote public discussion on cannabis legislation before the national referendum on the subject in September.  

Why did WSP team up with the Helen Clark Foundation? 

The two organisations share an aligned purpose by taking a research and evidence-based approach to understanding the future implications of critical societal issues.  

By developing a greater understanding of the issues, we can develop meaningful actions that will help address those concerns. Collaborating on research in areas of mutual interest, including climate change and societal aspects will also enable us to gain leverage from the collective expertise and reach of both the organisations 

WSP's purpose is to create what matters to future generations, and one of the ways we do that is through our future-ready research programme. This programme takes an evidence-based approach to understand the future implications of key trends across climate, society, technology and resources. It aligns well with the Helen Clark Foundations' purpose of taking the same type of approach to making New Zealand a better place to live.    

What does it mean to WSP to have Helen Clark as the patron of the organisation? 

The Right Hon Helen Clark is the founder and patron of the organisation that carries her name. She is one of the most highly respected and influential women leaders in the public policy area. Of course, she spent nine years as our Prime Minister and is a former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017. Helen's support and promotion of the Foundation have enabled it to achieve a far higher level of visibility and engagement for stakeholders across the community. 

How does supporting the Foundation fit into WSP's corporate responsibility policy? 

WSP's New Zealand partnership with the Foundation is one of several initiatives we undertake to ensure the company functions as a good corporate citizen.  

Others initiatives include our commitment to reducing carbon emissions by setting science-based reduction targets and the implementation of an employee community volunteer programme. 

How is WSP contributing to the discussion over building a better Aotearoa? 

Firstly, through our collaboration with the Foundation, which includes the publication of a joint report on solving loneliness in society.  

The second part of our contribution comes from the Future Ready global research programme. This programme uses evidence to identify the most critical future implications for New Zealand society of peak global trends across climate, society, technology and resources. Future Ready has been able to produce thought leadership on a range of important issues from climate change to accelerated construction and road safety. We have then been able to integrate this research into the planning and design solutions we create for the built and natural environments for our clients in Aotearoa. 

Where does environmental sustainability fit into the country's post-COVID infrastructure rebuild? 

Right now, there is an understandable urgency to mobilise the critical infrastructure projects to help stimulate the New Zealand economy in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this stimulus package, the Government has changed some Resource Management Act requirements which will enable the fast-tracking of consenting for projects. However, in doing this, we must balance the urgency to act now in response to the COVID-19 challenges with ensuring, as a society, that we continue to address the very real impacts of climate change over the next 20 -30 years. These impacts include a warmer, wetter and wilder climate categorised by high sea levels, more intense rainfall, droughts and flooding along with higher than average wind speeds. 

What are the urgent issues with our infrastructure that we need to address? 

WSP sees four key issues. Water infrastructure, the local government funding model to ensure LG can continue to fund infrastructure, climate change mitigation and risk management and finally delivery.  

Connect with Ian Blair on LinkedIn