Our current research areas

Perinatal and Maternal Mental Health

Researcher: Holly Walker

In partnership with Rātā Foundation

It's long been understood that a good start in life is important, but now a growing body of research demonstrates how significant parental mental health in particular is to long-term family and whānau wellbeing. Mental distress during the perinatal period (from the beginning of pregnancy until a year after birth) can have severe long-term consequences, not only for parents in distress, but also for their babies.

This is a concerning finding at a time when DHBs report increasing complexity of maternal mental health needs and high unmet need for support. However, it also presents an important opportunity: if we can understand what contributes to this distress, and put in place policies to actively remove or alleviate it, we can not only support mothers and parents who are struggling, but also significantly improve intergenerational outcomes - a critical public policy challenge and the subject of a current Productivity Commission inquiry.

Associate Fellow Holly Walker has been leading our research in this area. In April 2022 we published our report, Āhurutia Te Rito, looking at what contributes to perinatal distress in Aotearoa New Zealand and identifying opportunities to better support new parents and their babies. It focused in particular on how to support and enable community-led solutions. You can read the report here. On 28th July we hosted a public webinar to share key insights and recommendations from this report.

In September we will host a policy roundtable. Our goal is to support policy change that restores and enhances the special status of parents, pēpī, and whānau at this crucial time.

This work  has been carried out with the generous support of The Tindall Foundation and the Rātā Foundation.

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The Productivity Question

Researcher: Kathy Errington

In partnership with NZIER

Aotearoa New Zealand has Scandinavian expectations of the welfare state but a short term attitude to investment and taxation.

Together with NZIER, we propose to produce a paper focusing on the main sector which underpins Aotearoa New Zealand’s wealth – the primary sector – in the context of lifting productivity during the COVID recovery.

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Sustainable Cities

Researcher: Anne Cunningham

In partnership with WSP New Zealand

Aotearoa needs low-traffic neighbourhoods and cities to reduce emissions, improve road safety, and to create the connected urban communities we need in a post-pandemic future.

In this research stream, we set out why transport matters for equity, illustrate why reducing car dependence is the key to decarbonising urban transport, explain the risks of pursuing rapid decarbonisation without adequately considering equity, and lay out a path for how Aotearoa New Zealand can transition to the connected, low-traffic cities we need.

We take this urban focus because, as we outlined in a recent report about Aotearoa New Zealand’s diaspora and demographic trends, nearly three quarters of Aotearoa New Zealand’s population growth in the next 30 years will happen in cities. Tāmaki Makarau Auckland alone will account for half this growth. By 2048, there will be almost one million more people living in our cities than there were in 2018.

This growth places increasing pressure on our urban infrastructure and creates demand for new investment, including new and improved transport infrastructure.

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Drug Policy Reform in Aotearoa New Zealand

Researcher: Kathy Errington

Drug use is a reality in New Zealand, and the results of our current policy approach damage our health, worsen social equity, and drive crime. The status quo is unacceptable, and our research explores how we can do better.

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Our previous research areas

Improving Health Equity in Aotearoa New Zealand

Researcher: Matt Shand
In partnership with The Health Coalition Aotearoa

Health Equity Fellow Matt Shand worked on a range of research projects that sought to improve health equity in Aotearoa New Zealand. The research produced outputs on the topics of reducing alcohol harm and healthy food environments.

This research was undertaken in partnership with the Health Coalition Aotearoa and the MAS Foundation.

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Loneliness in Aotearoa New Zealand

Researcher: Holly Walker
In partnership with WSP New Zealand

Loneliness is a significant challenge for many people in Aotearoa New Zealand, and especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy Director and WSP Fellow Holly Walker investigated policy approaches to helping minimise the negative effects of loneliness.

This work includes a submission to the Interim Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, an article in the journal Policy Quarterly, and two research reports.

This research was produced as part of our partnership with WSP New Zealand.

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Inclusive Recovery and Minimum Wage Policy

Researcher: Kathy Errington
In partnership with NZIER

The global COVID-19 pandemic caused a major social and economic shock to Aotearoa New Zealand, and these impacts have not been distributed evenly.

This work explored what an inclusive growth agenda for Aotearoa New Zealand could look like.

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Reducing Online Harm

Researchers: Claire Mason, Kathy Errington

In the wake of the March 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack, which was livestreamed in an explicit attempt to foster support for white supremacist beliefs, it is clear that there is a problem with regard to regulating and moderating abhorrent content on social media. Both governments and social media companies could do more.

This research explored how we can best reduce harmful content online, and ensure that the internet becomes a sphere of equal public participation.

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