Story: Research institutions

Page 5. Research associations and consultancies

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‘Research association’ is a general term for non-governmental research organisations. Many of the research associations are represented by the Independent Research Association of New Zealand (IRANZ).

Industry-linked research associations

Within many industries there is a need for research, often on specific problems related to the use of local materials or environmental factors. Groups of companies have agreed to form industry-based research associations, with funding from members, government grants and commercial revenue. Some research organisations are supported by industry levies, mandated by specific legislation, including the Building Research Association of New Zealand, DairyNZ and the Heavy Engineering Research Association.

Beer and baccy research

Two of the earliest research associations were the Hop Research Station and the Tobacco Research Station, based in the Nelson area. Both concentrated on developing varieties that would grow well in local conditions. Overseas tobacco varieties were eventually replaced by locally bred varieties Waimea and Kuaka, which had high resistance to disease.

Private research associations

A small number of research associations have been started by individuals or trusts to undertake research in specific areas or topics, and rely on endowments, charitable funding and contestable government funding. There are two major private research groups.

  • The Cawthron Institute is based on a bequest from Thomas Cawthron, who left his estate for research in the Nelson region. Today the institute has about 180 staff, concentrating on research into aquaculture and freshwater ecology.
  • The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research is focused on finding cures for a number of diseases including cancer, asthma and multiple sclerosis, with emphasis on understanding and using the body’s immune system. It is named after Les Malaghan, a major benefactor.


A small but significant amount of research is undertaken by private consultants, ranging from large engineering consultancies such as Opus to small groups and individuals. These specialise in areas ranging from geotechnical assessments of building sites to archaeological and historical surveys. Most of their work is done for clients, so is under-represented in the research literature.

Private consultants and non-government organisations also undertook social science research, focusing on social, economic or educational research. In 2014 these included:

  • the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, which conducted and evaluated educational research and produced research-based products like tests and journals
  • the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, which undertook economic research, provided economic forecasts and made regular surveys of business opinion
  • Research New Zealand, which conducted and evaluated business and social research
  • the Salvation Army, which undertook social research on a range of issues, including families, housing and crime.
How to cite this page:

Simon Nathan, 'Research institutions - Research associations and consultancies', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 27 May 2024)

Story by Simon Nathan, published 22 Oct 2014