He waka eke noa

Better Together

Research excellence for healthy tamariki

Showcasing the latest research for healthy tamariki

hosted by A Better Start E tipu e Rea, the National Science Challenge 

Kia ora koutou

More than 160 researchers are engaged on A Better Start E Tipu e Rea National Science Challenge projects. The Challenge mission is to bring together the research to enable our tamariki to live healthy and successful lives, He waka eke noa/Better Together: Research excellence for our tamariki is the major forum for our research teams to gather, affirm existing relationships and build new ones to boost research collaboration. Our three health related themes, Healthy Weight, Resilient Teens and Successful Literacy and Learning and the underpinning Big Data theme have made significant progress.

We want Challenge researchers to know what’s been happening across the Challenge research themes and contribute their insight to ensure the Challenge research maintains its excellence, is robust and can make a meaningful difference to tamariki throughout Aotearoa. The Challenge’s science theme leaders will outline a high-level view of the direction of research for the next five years of the Challenge to 2024.

We thank the Minister for Research, Science and Innovation, the Hon Dr Megan Woods for opening our conference. Our thanks also go to our two distinguished two keynote speakers: Professor Ken Ong, from Cambridge University and the chair of the Challenge international Science Advisory Panel and Judge Andrew Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner.

Professor Wayne Cutfield, Challenge Director, 

Professor Gail Gillon, Co-Director,  Professor Barry Taylor, Co-Director

From left to right: Professor Wayne Cutfield, Director. Professor Gail Gillon, Co-Director. Professor Barry Taylor, Co-Director

Keynote speakers

Professer Ken Ong

University of Cambridge, UK

Ken Ong leads the Growth and Development programme at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and is Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology in the Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, UK.

His research has identified trajectories of childhood growth, weight gain and pubertal timing as determinants of obesity and related disease, and aims to understand the genetic, epigenetic and endocrine mechanisms that underlie these links. He works closely with other research programmes at the Unit in the aetiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the development and testing of interventions to prevent childhood obesity.

As well as his research work, Ken is a consultant paediatric endocrinologist and the clinical lead for childhood obesity at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and he chairs the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition. 

Watch video from Professor Ken Ong.

Judge Andrew Becroft

Children’s Commissioner

His Honour Judge Andrew Becroft was appointed a District Court Judge in 1996. In 2001, he became the Principal Youth Court Judge of New Zealand; a role that he held until 2016 when he was appointed the Children’s Commissioner.

The Commissioner and his office have a statutory role to promote child-centred thinking among government and non-government agencies, including advice about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which New Zealand is a signatory to. Children up to the age of 18 make up nearly a quarter of our population, and yet they often have little say in decisions and systems that affect them.

Judge Becroft is a distinguished alumni of the University of Auckland and was named Communicator of the Year in 2009 by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand.

Watch video from Judge Andrew Becroft.

The Next Five Years: presentations from A Better Start’s science theme leaders

Rachel Taylor
Sarah Hetrick and Tania Cargo
Brigid McNeill
Richard Audas
Professor Angus Macfarlane

Photos from Better Together Conference


Friday. 16 March. 2018 8.30 – 5pm



Research posters set up for display / Tea and coffee Directorate team


Mihi whakatau

Professor Angus Macfarlane, Vision Mātauranga theme leader


Opening address

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, the Hon Dr Megan Woods


Introduction: He waka eke noa Better Together

Conference goals / Outline and format / Housekeeping Challenge Director, Professor Wayne Cutfield


Healthy Weight: Strategic + contestable research

Chair: Rachael Taylor, Healthy Weight theme leader

Predicting childhood obesity
Wayne Cutfield (5min)

Healthy weight: Parents’ perspective
Marewa Glover (5min)

Parental perceptions of risk of unhealthy weight in children
Eadaoin Maire Butler (5min)

NZ four-year-olds buck obesity trend
Nichola Shackleton (5min)


Resilient Teens: Strategic + contestable research

Chair: Sally Merry, Resilient Teens theme leader

Digital platforms to maintain good mental health
Rawiri Wharemata & Sally Merry (5min)

Whiria te tangata: Weave the people together
Tony Patolo, Stacey Ruru, supported by Theresa Fleming  (5min)

HABITS IT platform
Jim Warren supported by Matt Shepherd (5min)

Digital tools to support teens’ emotional health
Karolina Stasiak (5min) supported by Matt Shepherd

HABITs addiction apps
Grant Christie (5min) supported by Matt Shepherd

MyTeen: Increasing parental competency and mental health literacy
Joanna Ting Wai Chu (3min)

High intensity interval training and mental health in adolescents
Nigel Harris (3min)

Te Taonga o Tāku Ngākau: ancestral knowledge as a framework for wellbeing
Leonie Pihama (3min)


Morning Tea


Successful Literacy and Learning: Strategic + contestable research

Chair: Brigid McNeill Successful Literacy and Learning theme leader

Predicting children’s literacy success and needs
Philip Schluter (5min)

A Better Start to early literacy learning: Teacher-implemented intervention for Year 1 children
Brigid McNeill (5min)

Findings on emergent bilinguals in a digital world
Tufulasi Taleni and Niki Davis (5min)

Ko te kai a te rangatira he kōrero: Braiding Western Literacy Practices with Māori Cultural Imperatives
Melissa Derby (5min)

Emotional wellbeing for children with literacy issues
John Everatt (3min)

Genetic diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in New Zealanders
Jessie Jacobsen (3min)


Big Data: Strategic + contestable research

Chair: Rick Audas, Big Data theme leader

A Big Data approach to A Better Start
Barry Milne (10min)

Māori and big data
Justine Camp (5min)

Pacific perspectives on big data
Jesse Kokaua (5min)

Translational modelling for healthy weight interventions
Cameron Grant (5min)

Q and A


Lunch, poster viewing, networking


A Better Start: the next five years

Facilitator: Gail Gillon

15 min presentation from each theme leader on draft 2nd tranche science plan and a presentation on Vision Mātauranga principles across A Better Start

Healthy Weight
Rachael Taylor (15min)

Resilient Teens
Sarah Hetrick & Tania Cargo (15min)

Successful Literacy and Learning
Brigid McNeill (15min)

Big Data
Rick Audas (15min)

Principles and practice: Vision Mātauranga
Angus Macfarlane (10min)


The power of early intervention

Professor Ken Ong, Chair of Science Advisory Panel, A Better Start


Afternoon tea



The children’s voice

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft


Conference close

Angus Macfarlane

Networking refreshments Villa Maria Optional


Conference location

Villa Maria Estate The Barrel Room 118 Montgomerie Rd Mangere, Auckland

Friday, 16 March, 2018 8:30 – 5pm

Villa Maria Estate The Barrel Room 118 Montgomerie Rd Mangere Auckland