Wananga landing Wananga landing

No-one left behind: Kiwis sign Aotearoa sustainability declaration

03 September 2021

Aotearoa SDG Summit co-hosts, the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University, have led the way in committing to action on the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by signing the Aotearoa SDG Declaration yesterday.


A word cloud created during the Aotearoa Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit yesterday summed up participant’s responses to a day of rich sharing about actions to achieve the SDGs. Over 160 individuals and organisations have so far signed the Aotearoa SDG Declaration.

Under the theme Collaboration for Systemic Change, the summit (2 September) attracted 440 participants after moving online due to Level 3 and 4 Covid-19 restrictions.

“The SDGs tackle the most complex and intractable challenges of our time and in acknowledgement of this we embrace the opportunity to join others to sign the 2021 Aotearoa SDG Declaration,” University of Canterbury’s Tumu Whakarae Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey said in her opening address.

“Our scientists have pointed out that time is short and urgent change is needed if we are to achieve the SDGs, so let us set aside our narrow institutional and sectoral interests, let us work together and secure a future for our people and our planet.”

So far, over 160 individuals and organisations have signed the Aotearoa SDG Declaration, which was created by a nationwide team after originating during planning for a series of online hui before the summit.

The declaration commits signatories to abide by fundamentals such as: Te Tiriti o Waitangi underpinning their actions, collaboration, urgent transformation of our economic and social systems and ensuring no-one is left behind.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta officially opened the event with a speech that reinforced the Government’s commitment to achieving the SDGs.

The Summit programme featured interactive workshop sessions, kōrero about a national SDG Alliance, project showcases and a presentation from the Office of the Auditor-General on the Government's preparedness to implement the SDGs. This report, released this week, suggests the Government still needs to clarify whether it will set targets for each of the SDGs New Zealand will work towards, what specific actions it will take to implement the SDGs, and how it will measure progress.

Summit workshop sessions explored diverse challenges aligned to one or more SDGs, including creating youth-inclusive organisations, embedding Te Tiriti-based principles into Climate Assemblies for Aotearoa New Zealand, why storytelling matters, and the realities of life for people on a Pacific atoll acclimatising to higher ground. All 14 sessions and seven project showcases will be available on the Summit YouTube channel.

“The Summit affirmed the importance of the SDGs to New Zealand organisations from multiple sectors and particularly their willingness to collaborate to bring change quickly, given the urgency of the ecological and social crises being witnessed internationally and at home,” Summit series working group chair and University of Canterbury Sustainability Advisor Dr Matt Morris said.

In his closing remarks at the Summit, he said the world has changed dramatically since the planning for the 2020-21 summit series began in 2019. “We’ve had to respond to a very rapidly changing landscape,” he said.

The three online hui leading up to the main summit had offered thought-provoking topics and perspectives, he said.

“We’ve listened to the thoughts and actions of young people, we’ve learned some of the ways the business community are responding to the challenges of the SDGs, we’ve heard about what some of our crown research institutes are doing in this space and we’ve tuned into Pasifika voices from as far away as Vanuatu,” Dr Morris said.

“There has been a lot of ground covered and one of the coolest things about doing it this way is that all the content is available on You Tube.”

Collaboration was a consistent theme as Summit stakeholder group co-chair Moko Morris observed; “the word of the day is kotahitanga. That’s what I’ve experienced today.

“I urge people to keep holding us accountable, keep having these conversations and keep moving forward because we don’t have the time to be patient anymore.”

The Summit supporters were Christchurch City Council and Ara Institute of Canterbury, and partners were ChristchurchNZ, Tourism NZ, NZ National Commission (UNESCO), Universities NZ, UC Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) and Seeds podcast.

Victoria University of Wellington and Auckland University with Auckland University of Technology held the first and second SDG Summits in 2018 and 2019.

The day closed with the summit being handed on to Waikato University’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability Lynda Johnston, who had participated throughout the day.

Aotearoa SDG Declaration

1 We agree to abide by the following fundamentals:

1.1 Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document for our nation, and it must underpin our actions.

1.2 Transformation of our economic and social systems is urgent if we are to achieve the SDGs and secure a future for our people and planet. Time is short and change is needed now.

1.3 No single organisation can achieve the SDGs on their own. Change requires us to work boldly within and across sectors: we will work collaboratively where possible and appropriate.

1.4 The SDGs are for all people in our country; no one is to be left behind and the most vulnerable communities must be supported to contribute to the development and implementation of SDG actions.

2 2020-2021 Summit Series Achievements

The 2020-2021 SDG Summit Series has elevated key concepts and enriched our collective understanding of the SDGs, signposting pathways for further work. It has done this by:

2.1 Supporting the development of the Aotearoa SDG Alliance

2.2 Developing discussion about the connections of tangata whenua, Te Tiriti and the SDGs

2.3 Bringing the voice of our Pacific neighbours to our thinking about the SDGs

2.4 Hearing from young people and learning from their concerns for the future and the actions they are taking

2.5 Learning more from the New Zealand research community (especially the Crown Research Institutes) about the work they are doing to support progress on the SDGs

2.6 Listening to ways in which the business community is working to achieve the SDGs

2.7 Building strong processes for the development of the SDG summits, for example by enhancing the role of the national Stakeholder Group.

3 Our Commitments

Noting the urgency with which change is required, we:

3.1 Commit to align with the SDGs in adopting sustainable practices in our organisation/s and the wider community.

3.2 Recognise the need for, and therefore commit to, collaborative action as an ongoing process.

3.3 Celebrate the creation of a national SDG Alliance to foster collaboration and support action towards the SDGs in Aotearoa New Zealand and see this as a primary platform for collaboration. We commit to the support of, and involvement in, this Alliance.

3.4 Commit to working with the SDG Alliance to publicly report on our progress prior to the next national SDG Summit.

Signatories: University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, University of Waikato, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, Speak Up Korerotia, Sustainable South Canterbury Trust, United Nations Association, Network Waitangi Otautahi, BRAID, Hui-E! Community Aotearoa, West Papua Action Aotearoa, NZ Federation of Business & Professionals, International Student Rescue Mission, Eco Educate, Kia Kotahi Ako Trust, Transparency International New Zealand, Otago Disabled Students Association, International Antarctic Centre, Waikato Wellbeing Project, Fairground Ltd, Auckland Zoo, BOMA NZ, Volunteer Marlborough Charitable Trust, Poverty Action Waikato, Pioneer Energy, Rangi Ruru Girls School, kiaTAERIA, NZ Green Building Council, Eastbay REAP, Sollos, Youth Ambassadors Malaysia, Citizens of the World Design LTd.

Many individuals also signed the declaration and other organisations are still preparing to sign.

From awareness to action: What can you do?
  • View presentations from three hui online on the YouTube channel. All the interactive sessions and other content from the virtual summit will also be available here soon.
  • Find out more about the SDGs here
  • Commit to action on an SDG of your choice
  • Find out what your organisation is doing to achieve the SDGs.
  • Join the SDG Alliance to connect with others working towards a more equitable and sustainable world.

More information
Visit our media enquiries page to contact UC Media.
What to read next
Privacy Preferences

By clicking "Accept All Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.