A decade’s hard work and dedication


Te Kōmata o Te Tonga, the Deep South National Science Challenge has now ended. Coinciding with Matariki, all of the National Science Challenges wrapped up their decade-long mahi on 30 June 2024, exploring some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s biggest and most complex questions.

These research platforms have been responsible for producing hundreds of papers, videos, podcasts, book chapters, webinars, symposia and conferences – alongside countless community engagements. The sheer weight of knowledge/mātauranga developed since their 2014 inception is incredible.

Questions are already being asked in multiple formats by smart people connected to our foundational science systems: what next? Our own concerns about the “funding cliff” and the current loss of experienced people overseas as decisions are made to collapse certain areas of critical discovery, are well documented. The fact is we need multiple different and complementary approaches to science and research if we are going to tackle what’s coming. And that’s not only true of climate change adaptation, which was the DSC’s remit – but of all the complex issues in our society and culture that were the focus of the Challenge mahi. But, we don’t need to get back into all of that here.

We’d rather celebrate.

First, the team at the DSC would like to thank our Kāhui, Governance Group, Representative User Group, Independent Science Panel, Challenge Leadership Team and everyone who worked on the Deep South Challenge engine to make it go.

But of course, the biggest and most profound mihi must go to our researchers.

The explorations undertaken as part of the Deep South Challenge have consistently wowed us. We have learned more, had more insights, discussed this with so many end-users, had more surges of joy and optimism (and had more sleepless nights) than we would have thought possible at the start of this endeavour.

Our researchers have worked extremely hard to develop and communicate fresh findings year on year. The country now knows more about how insurance, intergenerationality, water use, coastal flooding, clouds and aerosols, marae and hapū communities intersect with the big climate change adaptation questions of our time, as well as how people and place come together to answer them. And that’s just for starters – the DSC touched on more sectors, systems and communities than we can list here – reflecting climate change’s reach across all aspects of our economy, society and culture.

While we have enough information to get on with adaptation now – and while we urgently need to – the research and understanding still needed is immense. With that said, we can be sure that regardless of how adaptation research and action gets funded (or in the case of many community groups, whether it gets funded at all) it will go on. The passion and commitment of our researchers, the strength of their networks, their whanaungatanga and the brightness of their ahi kaa tells us that an official platform is a great thing, but that the impulse to go on amassing knowledge and building understanding transcends anything that any government or organisational system might do.

This provides a reason for hope.

Again: there’s been too much good work across all of our research streams to provide a comprehensive list here; Vision Mātauranga, Impacts & Adaptation, Processes & Observations and Earth System Modelling & Prediction have all produced incredible work. But, there’s always highlights.

If you haven’t caught it since its launch on 24 June 2024 the latest research across the Vision Mātauranga is highlighted in the impressive season two of our Ko Papa Ko Rangi podcast, Ahi Kaa. Recorded by our Kaitakawaenga Nadine Hura with in-studio support from our Challenge Pou Tikanga Ruia Aperahama. Ahi Kaa is hosted by the Spinoff Podcast Network.

From our Impacts & Adaptation stream, check out some of the talks and panels from our Adapting Aotearoa symposium in 2023, which brought together climate change researchers and the primary sector to look for a way forward on adaptation. Where radicalism meets incrementalism; this makes for really interesting watching, listening and – via a comprehensive symposium report – reading.

Our Processes and Observations, and Earth System Modelling programmes have pushed our understanding of key climate drivers in our region and globally.  That work is making its way into the Global Climate Models that provide the foundational understanding for international and domestic climate change impacts, from improved representation of freezing nuclei in the Unified Model, to pushing the limits of our understanding of the impact of ice shelf melt, to informing guidance to understand regional changes in future extreme rainfall.

It probably can’t be overstated, but this really does only scratch the surface of a decade’s hard work and dedication from so many connected to and brought into the DSC fold. Our website will remain live and online for another 10 years, and all of the academic papers and similar collateral produced by our team and researchers will reside in an online Figshare repository also. We hope that you’ll explore both – but know that if you do, you better pack a lunch. There’s a lot of good stuff in here.

The kaitiaki of our channels, materials and brand becomes the responsibility of the Challenge host, NIWA, from 30 June 2024. Thank you to NIWA for being such a great host

From us at Te Kōmata o Te Tonga the Deep South National Science Challenge, ngā mihi nui kia koe.