Urban insights from the Big Apple

Ministry for the Environment policy analyst Joe Beaglehole is currently in New York on a Harkness Fellowship researching new tools for addressing the challenges of rapid urbanisation. We caught up with him as spring arrived in the Big Apple.

1. You are based in New York, a bustling metropolis and iconic for its urban design. What are your impressions on how the city approaches its town planning?

The revival of New York over the last twenty years is impressive and has led to stunning new development projects. But this growth hasn’t been inclusive, and residents feel alienated by change. The city is now in the midst of a housing crisis and has significant infrastructure funding challenges.

Unfortunately, because of the failure to supply enough new housing to keep up with growth, rising rents have led to anti-growth sentiment and opposition to new development, which is precisely what is needed to fix the problem. So New York planners face some significant challenges. Not to mention the potentially terrifying impact of climate change, sea level rise and major storms.

2. It must feel strange being away from your day to day work at the Ministry for the Environment? What have been the benefits of stepping back for a while to delve into your research topic?

It’s been instructive to compare both the policy and the public debate about housing and urban planning in the U.S and New Zealand. For example, the main driver of opposition to new housing in New York is concern about gentrification and displacement of residents in existing communities, while in New Zealand, the main concern has been changes in the amenity of neighbourhoods. New York housing policy also makes use of a much broader range of tools, including inclusionary zoning and various forms of rent control. It has been interesting to understand why this is the case.

3. What has it been like working with researchers at your host institution, the Marron Institute on Cities & The Urban Environment at New York University?

The Marron Institute is full of fascinating researchers and is well connected to the wider world of urban research across New York and the United States. The scale of research activity on urban issues is truly impressive. At NYU alone, there are half a dozen urban research institutes. I’ve also been impressed by the rigor of critique at seminars I’ve attended where working papers are tested as they are developed.

4. Are there any major themes emerging from your research so far that hint at what New Zealand could learn to improve our urban planning?

Urban land use decision making is particularly susceptible to capture by short term and local interests, at the expense of the longer-term public interest. I’m interested in ways that we can better reflect wider interests in institutions and decision making processes.

5. You arrived in the United States just as Spring arrived and Americans gear up for summer. What has the trip been like so far away from your research?

I’m here with my partner and our 7-month-old daughter. We’ve been enjoying all New York City has to offer, which is a lot! But our favourite thing is just to take the subway to one of New York’s amazing diverse neighbourhoods, explore and get something delicious to eat.

6. What’s the one thing you’ve promised yourself you’ll do before your time in the United States is up?

I’ve been wanting to make it to Hudson Yards. It is the largest private real estate development in the United States ever, and it has recently opened to mixed reviews. Some say it is yet another enclave for the rich in an increasingly unequal city. I’m interested in seeing it firsthand.

US-bound Harkness Fellows to tackle environmental & child welfare issues

Better outcomes for the environment and children will be the focus of research undertaken in top United States universities next year by the 2018 Harkness Fellows.

Group photo 4

Harkness Fellowships Trust chairman Ross Tanner (centre) with 2018 Harkness Fellows Doug Jones and Donna Provoost

Doug Jones, Manahautū/General Manager of the Māori Policy and Operations team at the Environmental Protection Authority, and Donna Provoost, Director of the Strategy, Rights and Advice team at the office of the Children’s Commissioner, are this year’s recipients of Harkness Fellowships.

The $30,000 fellowships allow mid-career public sector professionals to undertake research projects in the US with the aim of gaining insights that could inform government policy in New Zealand.

“We look to assist emerging leaders in the public sector to help governments develop responses to some of the biggest disruptive changes facing society,” says Harkness Fellowship Trust chairman Ross Tanner.

“Our two new fellows embody that goal, working on aspects of public policy and administration that are crucial to New Zealand’s future.”

As the current General Manager Māori of the Environmental Protection Authority, and with roles and experience in managing Māori land, freshwater and commercial fisheries assets for Rongowhakaata Iwi Asset Holding Company, Te Ohu Kaimoana, Te Puni Kōkiri and Ministry for Primary Industries, Doug Jones will explore the environmental trade-offs, approaches and opportunity costs that need to be considered when introducing new technologies, such as gene editing, to protect native species.

“How do we have a mature conversation about environmental trade-offs in the face of public outrage and science denial fuelled by social media,” says Jones, who will be based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

“It’s an exciting question that we need to explore for the benefit of protecting native species and for future generations.”

An economist with 20 years’ experience in the social sector working on issues including poverty and community development, Donna Provoost will undertake research at the University of Oregon’s Center for Translational Neuroscience and the Harvard Center for the Developing Child, exploring how neuroscience, psychology and related disciplines can better inform policies to improve the well-being and resilience of children.

“With the support of the Harkness Fellowship, I will bring new insights to the policy work on the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy” says Donna. “I am excited to have this opportunity to contribute to better lives for kiwi kids!”

“Through effective management of our endowment fund and additional fundraising efforts, we hope to be able to offer more than one fellowship in a given year again in future,” says Tanner.

The 2018 fellows join the likes of Hugh Fletcher, Hon. Shane Jones, Bridget Coates and Harkness Fellowships Trust patron Sir Richard Faull, as fellowship recipients adding to a legacy of leadership in and beyond government and evidence-based collaboration with US researchers, agencies and institutions.

About The Harkness Fellowships

The Harkness Fellowships programme has over the last sixty years enabled mid-career professionals who aspire to significant leadership roles within New Zealand, particularly in but not limited to the public sector, to benefit from new ideas, practices and contacts in the United States. The Fellowship application process is administered by Fulbright New Zealand.

The Fellowship programme in New Zealand has supported over 100 talented people to pursue study and research programmes in the US. Many have gone on to become leaders in their profession and to make outstanding contributions to science and technology, health care and education, economics and public sector leadership.

Harkness Fellowship – applications now open

Applications are now open for the 2018 Harkness Fellowship.  

We live in an age of accelerating complexity. The world is much less predictable than it used to be. We need leaders who understand the nature of the disruptive economic, technological, social and environmental forces that are reshaping our world.

Public sector leaders who can help governments grapple with the implications and develop responses for those disruptions across the spectrum of public policy and administration are more important than ever.

That is why we have refocused the Harkness Fellowship to focus on disruption.

This is a rare opportunity to gain financial support from one of the longest-running and successful fellowship programmes in the country.

Visit the Applications page for full details of the fellowship and to download the application form. Applications close October 14.

Find out more about our recent fellows here – Joe Beaglehole, Peter Coleman, Aphra Green

Our full list of past Harkness Fellows.