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Otago joins 166 other centres around the world in holding RCE status, it was confirmed yesterday.
The drive to obtain the accreditation was led by Otago Polytechnic, following its work to embed sustainability into its curriculum and campus development.
Joining it in the push were mayors from across Otago, Ngai Tahu, the University of Otago, the Dunedin City Council, the Otago Regional Council, the Otago Chamber of Commerce and a host of other businesses and groups, including four secondary schools.
RCE-Otago director Barry Law said the combined push reflected Otago’s status as a region facing potential climate change, water and tourism issues, as well as its position as a hub for education.
As a result of earning RCE status, the new body, RCE-Otago, would work to advance the United Nations’ sustainable development goals across Otago.
That would include increased focus on water quality and use, sustainable tourism and low-carbon lifestyles, among other initiatives, Dr Law said.
There was also "strong interest" in the initiative from other sectors, including the agriculture, horticulture and viticulture industries and the health sector, he said.
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said it was an “exciting and important development” which would provide a regional model for the rest of New Zealand in addressing sustainability issues.
Dunedin City Council chief executive and chairwoman of the new body Sue Bidrose said sustainable development goals had already been adopted by the council, and gave it "a great steer on what matters to keep Dunedin thriving but also sustainable”.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said such goals should be "at the heart of any community", while University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said the initiative recognised "the great work already under way" in Otago.
Regional council chairwoman Marion Hobbs said the initiative was "terrific news".