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Migration and climate change for young geographers

Secondary school Year 12 pupils from Hawke's Bay, Manawatū, Whanganui and Wellington at the geography experience day

The Brexit referendum, mass migration, global refugee crises and the impacts of climate change provided topical real-world touch points for some 250 Year 13 geography pupils who attended Massey University’s geography experience days.

Presentations from Massey’s geography and planning experts focused on the 2016 Scholarship exam theme of human migration. Twenty schools from Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū, Whanganui and Wellington attended the experience days at the Manawatū and Wellington campuses last week.

Planning programme co-ordinator Associate Professor Christine Cheyne says the focus on human migration was a strong drawcard for teachers. 

“Fortuitously, the timing of the geography and planning subject days coincided with the release of the outcome of the Brexit referendum, which generated extensive discussion about the effects of globalisation and immigration,” she says.

Massey’s human geography and planning experts Dr Matt Henry, Dr Jia Ye, Dr Russell Prince, Professor Mike Roche and Dr Cheyne spoke to pupils about international migration flows, New Zealand’s recent record net migration and population super-diversity, as well as related contemporary issues such as uneven regional population growth and ‘zombie towns’ in New Zealand. 

“All these dimensions of the scholarship topic have profound implications for urban planning – transport infrastructure, health care and education facilities, as well as housing design and affordability”, says Dr Cheyne. “The 2016 scholarship topic is highly relevant, as research shows that ethnic diversity driven by international migration is a defining characteristic of the millennial generation.”

Physical geography experts, Associate Professor Ian Fuller and Dr Alastair Clement, highlighted the impacts of shifting rivers, coastal erosion and sea-level rise on human settlement patterns and critical infrastructure.

“Human displacement is increasingly related to climate change and other changes in the biophysical environment, so physical geography is also an important lens on the scholarship topic,” Dr Cheyne says.

Feedback from both teachers and pupils on the value of the experience days has been “very positive,” she says.


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