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Victoria appoints senior leader in sustainability

Submitted by on March 8, 2016 – 4:00 am

Marjan van den BeltVictoria University of Wellington has appointed Associate Professor Marjan van den Belt, an internationally respected scholar and advisor on biodiversity and ecosystem services, to the role of Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability).

Associate Professor van den Belt, who is originally from The Netherlands, is currently at Massey University in Palmerston North, where she is Director and Principal Ecological Economist of Ecological Economics Research New Zealand.

She has been a researcher and consultant on many national and international projects over the past 25 years, moving to New Zealand seven years ago to become part of innovative sustainability initiatives taking place here.

Associate Professor van den Belt is the second person to hold the senior sustainability role at Victoria—Emeritus Professor Charles Daugherty was appointed as New Zealand’s first Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability) at Victoria in 2014.

“We are delighted to have someone of Associate Professor van den Belt’s calibre joining Victoria and leading an area that is of critical importance to the University and to New Zealand,” says Victoria University Provost, Professor Wendy Larner.

“Sustainability is a university-wide focus for Victoria—in its research, teaching and in the way we run our campuses. It is also at the heart of one of Victoria’s eight areas of distinctiveness—enhancing the resilience and sustainability of our natural heritage and capital—and I am looking forward to the leadership Associate Professor van den Belt will provide.”

Associate Professor van den Belt brings a unique combination of academic qualifications and research, management and governance to her new role.

She has a Master’s of Business Economics from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and a Graduate Certificate in Ecological Economics and a PhD in Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Science from the University of Maryland in the United States.

Before coming to New Zealand, Associate Professor van den Belt worked internationally in a variety of roles, including as a strategy advisor for a sustainability-oriented start-up hedge fund in The Netherlands, co-founded a cohousing community of privately-owned energy efficient homes in Vermont, USA, and running her own research consultancy on waste minimisation in Stockholm, Sweden.

She became Director of Ecological Economics Research New Zealand in 2009 and in that role has led a number of successful initiatives in partnership with central, regional and local government agencies, iwi and communities.

One example is an Integrated Freshwater Solutions project which developed tools with local communities to address freshwater management issues with a particular focus on improving the health of the Manawatū River. Another example is a Sustainable Pathways 2 project which developed decision support tools for local authorities to use nationwide in spatial planning of urban areas.

Associate Professor van den Belt says taking up the role of Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability) at Victoria is an opportunity to make a positive difference for New Zealand and the world. This starts with getting sustainability right in our own back yard.

“I have a lifelong passion for sustainability issues. The last seven years have provided a rich environment for learning about New Zealand, its strengths and challenges and its place in our interconnected world.

“Moving to Victoria is an opportunity to continue building crucial links and tools with staff and students for the transition to a more sustainable culture. In my new role, I intend to initiate and implement innovative research and education programmes in partnership with our stakeholders and communities.”

Associate Professor van den Belt is a sought-after public speaker who has addressed audiences of up to 1500 people at 60 successful engagements in the last six years, including a keynote at UNESCO for World Oceans Day in Paris in June, 2015.

She will give a public lecture in Wellington soon after she takes up her new role on 1 June.

For more information contact Katherine Edmond on 04-463 6017 or katherine.edmond@vuw.ac.nz

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