Wellington Scoop

Mike Joy receives $50,000 award for environmental campaigning

News from Universities New Zealand – Te Pokai Tara
Massey University academic Dr Mike Joy has today been presented with the inaugural Critic and Conscience of Society Award for his work in drawing attention to the issue of water quality in New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and drinking water.

The Critic and Conscience of Society Award, sponsored by the Gama Foundation, acknowledges academic staff who provide independent, expert commentary on issues that affect the New Zealand community and its future generations. The prize of $50,000 is earmarked to support his further research.

The independent judging panel said that the winner, Dr Mike Joy, had made a substantial contribution over the past two years to raise public awareness of an important issue facing the country.

Dr Joy is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science at Massey University. He researches and teaches freshwater ecology and has studied the declining health of New Zealand rivers for decades. In particular, he focuses on freshwater fish ecology and distribution, ecological modelling and environmental science, producing reports for Councils and organisations around New Zealand.

He is also a well-known science communicator, media commentator and author on issues including the recent Havelock North drinking water contamination, the state of New Zealand’s waterways and its impact on biodiversity. Last year he published a book, `Polluted Inheritance` on freshwater and the impacts of irrigation and intensive farming.

Steve Weaver, a member of the judging panel and a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Canterbury, said, “Mike’s work has successfully placed a complex and difficult environmental issue on the public agenda. He’s single-handedly raised awareness of an issue that’s at the heart of our country’s primary economy and environment. While some of his messages are unpalatable to some, Mike has been a fearless crusader to ensure this issue remains a top of the agenda for central and local government, as well as for the agricultural industry.”

In receiving the award, Dr Joy said, “I’m extremely honoured to win the Award. I’m grateful for the support I have received from Massey University and especially hope that the existence of this award will motivate other academics to take up the unique but threatened privilege of being the critic and conscience of our society.”

Under Education legislation, New Zealand’s universities have a responsibility to act as the critic and conscience of society, which underpins the important role of the public academic, and their freedom to provide independent expertise and comment on issues.

The Award is administered by Universities New Zealand which manages around 40 undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships.


  1. Shelley Lewis, 14. September 2017, 13:07

    You are a treasure Mike and well deserving of the award. You give me hope that NZ can be restored in so many ways. I admire your skills and values.
    Regards, Shelley

  2. Jude MacArthur, 17. September 2017, 11:42

    Such a worthy first recipient and what an important award – thanks to Gama Foundation for supporting the critical and conscientious voice.

  3. paulmclaten, 17. September 2017, 16:15

    Dear Dr Mike Joy. Many thanks for your interview on RNZ this morning. I endorse your courage and dedication. The truth will come out in time and of course ‘they’ will forget to apologise.

  4. Jim Anderson, 17. September 2017, 18:02

    Brilliant interview, everyone living in N.Z.should be made patently aware of Dr Mike Joy’s research and observations regarding the environmental degradation of our precious country. If the short data sets used by the compliance authorities to compare change continue to be used we are surely on the path to total destruction, and as for direction from central government over the last ten years may be fair to say they have been fast asleep at the wheel… enough said.

  5. John Walker, 17. September 2017, 20:01

    Mike you have been THE sane voice in a plethora of noises from various interests in dairy and related irrigation and fertilizer supply. But the noise has been more determined in denigrating your good work and name, than facing the problem.

    Land prices have climbed, hurting farmers but not bankers supplying money to escalate the problem. This situation has few people speaking out against the powerful vested interests. You have often stood alone but the respect held but many thousands for your ground breaking work and personal position, is immense. A Kiwi standing against a corporate group including TNCs.

    One hopes the award will give solid ground for your continued fight and encourage others to join you.

  6. Lloyd Blythen, 18. September 2017, 21:23

    Great news! A courageous and worthy recipient of a significant award.