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Published 30 July 2018

Two New Zealanders to be honoured by the International Geographical Union

New Zealand geographers Professor Richard Le Heron FRSNZ and Professor Robyn Longhurst are to receive the award of Lauréat d’honneur from the International Geographical Union (IGU).

The International Geographic Union is an international, non-governmental, professional organisation devoted to the development of Geography. The prestigious Lauréat d’honneur was established in 1976 and recognises individuals who have achieved particular distinction or outstanding service in the work of the Union or in international geography and environmental research.

It awards a maximum of three laureats in any two-year period and this is understood to be the first time a New Zealander has received the award. 

Richard Le Heron FRSNZ is Professor of Geography at the University of Auckland and was Vice President – Humanities and Social Sciences of Royal Society Te Apārangi for six years. An eminent geographer, he receives the award for his sustained engagement with the Union over 40 or more years.

He says the award came out of 'left field' and he is greatly honoured by the award. 

"While it may be a personal award it also reflects positively on the enduring commitment of the New Zealand Geographical Society to be involved with the International Geographic Union on a variety of levels. New Zealand geographers have made large and sustained commitments to the Union, having been delegates at key meetings, being involved in school quiz teams, and having hosted conferences in Aotearoa.

"Geography as a discipline has also been well supported by the Government and the Society through the support of a IGU national delegate and through support for conferences for early career geographers.  

"It feels good to be able to accept this award as collective recognition of these efforts and support." 

The International Geographic Union citation for Professor Le Heron states:

"Professor Richard Le Heron has had a sustained engagement with the IGU over 40 or more years. His first IGU congress was the 1972 Montreal meeting when he was a PhD student at Washington. He returned to New Zealand in time to be part of the organizing committee for the IGU Regional Conference held in Palmerston North in 1974 and was one of the editors of the conference proceedings. He attended the Regional Conference in Ibadan in 1978 and subsequent congresses including Sydney (1988), Washington (1992) and The Hague (1996). His closer involvement with the IGU has been at the commission level. This commenced with his involvement with the Industrial Commission in the late 1970s when it met at Canberra in Australia. He participated in later commission meetings in British Columbia and Orlando. The Commission was reconstituted as an economic geography commission in the early 1990s. He worked more closely with this group at a point when there were some significant cleavages within economic geography in order to show how diverse approaches still had merit. In 1996 he was invited to deliver a ‘progress in economic geography’ type of address at The Hague Congress. This was subsequently published in Tijdschrift voor Economishe en Sociale Geografie.  He subsequently joined the executive committee of the Commission serving as Vice-Chair and for two terms as Chair. During this period the commission was particularly active holding meetings in such diverse locations as Turin, Vancouver, Toledo, Birmingham, Auckland, Beijing, Barcelona, and Perth. During this time the Commission were also notably successful in converting its meetings into series of books. Two examples from half a dozen include Knowledge, industry and environment: institutions and innovation in territorial perspective edited by Roger Hayter and Richard Le Heron (2002) and Agri-food commodity chains and globalising networks edited by Christina Stringer and Richard Le Heron (2008).  Professor Le Heron is one of only five Geographers to be elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand."

Robyn Longhurst is Professor in Geography and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic at the University of Waikato. She is a leading feminist geographer. The Union has awarded her its Lauréat d’honneur for her work which it says continues to profoundly reshape the discipline.

"Although this award has been conferred upon me, and for this I’m deeply grateful, it actually reflects positively on the incredible work carried out by the Gender and Geography Commission,” she says.

“It has been a privilege working with members of this highly successful Commission on issues of inequality over many years, and I see this award as being for all of those who contributed to this success."

She says the award also reflects positively on the discipline of Geography in New Zealand.

“At the risk of it sounding like national pride, I think two New Zealanders receiving a Lauréat this year is very special indeed."

The Union’s citation for Professor Longhurst states:

"Robyn Longhurst is a leading scholar in gender, social and cultural geography. Her sustained intellectual and institutional contributions – nationally and internationally – continue to profoundly reshape the discipline. She served the IGU Gender and Geography Commission for three terms, one of which as Chair, and is a global collaborator with numerous groups and institutions. Robyn's theoretically and empirically rich research focuses on the challenges and complexities of people, inequalities and injustices. Her research on gendered spaces - particularly pregnancy, mothering and social media - is ground-breaking. A committed educator, she has many awards for her geography teaching and research supervision and is a richly deserving recipient of the IGU Lauréat d’honneur."

The award will be presented in Quebec on 10 August. 


Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi