President’s column

Greetings from Wellington

Greetings from Wellington

Tēnā koutou katoa
Greetings from Wellington at the start of 2023

As your new President, let me introduce myself. I’m a Wellingtonian, born and (mostly) bred in Pōneke. I was a student member of the NZIC during my undergraduate and Honours degrees at Victoria University (VUW), and benefitted from the networking and prizes provided by the Branch. After time away doing a PhD at the Australian National University, Canberra, with Professor Martin Banwell and post-doctoral stints at the University of York, UK with Professor Richard J. K. Taylor, I returned to Wellington and took up a lectureship at VUW. 

In this time of shifting attitudes towards truth and fact in our society, this is a timely reminder that we as members of the NZIC need to uphold the veracity and correct practice of chemistry.

I lead an organic synthesis research group here and teach (mostly organic) chemistry at all levels. I’ve been involved with the Wellington Branch committee for many years – as secretary, committee member, student liaison rep, chair of the Branch and Branch editor. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to serve as the Vice President in 2022 and I’d like to thank outgoing President Michael Mucalo for his excellent leadership over the past two years, which have been particularly tough ones. I’m grateful to be able to rely on his experience now in his Past-President role. Over the past year, I’ve learned a huge amount from Michael, as well as from Samantha Eason (our awesome adminstrator), Hamish McDonald (our very wise treasurer) and all the rest of Council. I’m delighted and honoured to take the role of President of NZIC for this 2023–2024 term. 

I’ve been reflecting on the role of NZIC as the key advocate for chemistry and chemists in this motu/country. In doing so, I checked out the aims of the Institute on the website ( - an enlightening experience. Two phrases particularly stood out to me. 

The first was that the Institute was established to “promote the science and practice of chemistry in all its branches...”. I find this a helpful reminder of the eminent importance of our Branches as the vehicles by which we operate. For those who aren’t aware, we have six regional Branches within NZ (Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago), a Branch for overseas members and two education-related Branches: SCENZ (Secondary Chemistry Educators of NZ) and tert-Chem Ed (Tertiary Chemistry Educators of NZ) ( As we begin a new year, one in which we can hopefully put the disruptions of Covid-19 behind us, each of our Branches can consider how to move forward in this goal to promote chemistry. 

Perhaps some of the creative ways in which we’ve operated during Covid times will provide inspiration for complementing our traditional modes of meeting and conducting the business of NZIC, or maybe we will simply be relieved to get back to normality in our Branch activities. 

Secondly, I was struck by the stated NZIC goal to “promote honourable practice, to repress malpractice, to settle disputed points of practice and to decide all questions of professional usage and etiquette”. In this time of shifting attitudes towards truth and fact in our society, this is a timely reminder that we as members of the NZIC need to uphold the veracity and correct practice of chemistry. In addition to ensuring our own actions are honourable, we must encourage our colleagues and students in this regard. Furthermore, each of us is a voice of truth to those around us when it comes to representing chemistry and chemists. There is much misinformation out there that can be gently pointed out and corrected in our day-to-day interactions. One of my pet peeves is the “chemical free” labelling on products that are obviously made of matter and therefore are entirely chemicals! We can look for opportunities to remind our non-scientist contacts of the importance and good of chemistry.

NZIC aims to look after our members through advancing “the interests of the profession of chemistry and of those engaged therein”. Given the challenging financial situation of the NZ economy and the education sector at present, advocacy on behalf of our members is becoming more important and necessary. Please do get in touch through your Branches or via the NZIC Office ( if there are employment matters concerning you and/or other chemists. It’s hard to know how successful we can be but we will aim to strongly represent the cause of chemistry and chemists.

I want to bring attention to the hard work of NZIC/SCENZ folk in the ongoing revision of the NCEA curriculum and assessment framework. The development of excellent educational goals for our secondary school teaching of chemistry in NZ is of utmost importance and we are tremendously grateful for your efforts in providing expertise and vision to the NCEA revisions in partnership with the Ministry of Education. 

As we start this year, please consider how NZIC can better represent the chemical sciences in NZ and advocate for our profession. In a more general sense, what is our vision for how chemistry can be used to solve the big problems that we face? We are living in a world facing the impacts of climate change: are there ways in which NZIC should get involved in the science and politics of climate change and in building awareness in the community (beyond the amazing work our members are already doing in this space)? 

During the past few years, we have also encountered the effects of being a small and remote market in a global economy, leading to scarcity of many products and resulting in delays in health care and building projects, amongst other issues. Are there opportunities for NZIC (and our members) to facilitate the improvement of our country’s resilience by decreasing our reliance on international products? By boosting the chemical industry here in Aotearoa, might we grow job prospects for our members and students of chemistry, while decreasing the cost of transportation and improving the provenance of our products through local manufacturing? If you have ideas for how NZIC can positively impact our society, please get in touch via your Branches or NZIC Office (

As the incoming President of NZIC, I’m keen to visit our regional Branches this year, so I can meet you, see what you’re up to, hear about your ideas and visions, and see how we can implement some positive goals. We’ll be arranging these visits and I look forward to seeing you in the coming months.

Ka kite ahau i a koutou,
Joanne Harvey, FNZIC, FRSC

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