Seven projects advance Māori climate research

3:25 pm on 15 September 2017

The largest Māori-led research effort into climate change is investigating impacts, responses and opportunities for iwi, hapū and whānau.

Beached empty paua shell.

Photo: 123rf

Under the Vision Mātauranga science programme, seven science projects are aimed at strengthening knowledge about how climate change would affect Māori fisheries, forestry, tourism, farming and taonga.

Project leader Huhana Smith spent the last two years researching two coastal Māori farms and a whānau trust in the Horowhenua Kāpiti Region.

She said these communities were already seeing the effects of climate change.

"Changing seasons and more increased flooding, even though we've done wetland buffering.

"What those farms were finding was that they were just wetter, with more increased rainfall."

The project involved senior architecture students who came up with potential solutions around land and water use and displayed them in art exhibitions.

Dr Smith said this unique approach allowed Māori to imagine ways they could address sea-level rise, coastal erosion and extreme weather in the future.

"The ability for designers or even artists to provide the picture helps people lock into a new vision that we can actually have these things.

"It doesn't have to be an expensive vision it just needs to be a vision that suits the needs of iwi and hapū."

Project leader Wendy Henwood has been working with three isolated communities in the far North and looking at ways they could prepare for climate change impacts on household drinking water.

Rainfall is the main source of drinking water in these rural Māori settlements with most people collecting water from roofs and tanks.

Ms Henwood said urgent infrastructure issues needed to be addressed to help the communities deal with rising levels of rainfall and dryer summers.

"Roofs that need replacing, spoutings and gutterings that need replacing. If you haven't got a good source of income those are the first things that you don't worry about because the water is still coming through the tap but it's not good quality."

She said bringing Māori into the conversation about climate change was not always easy, but it was necessary if Māori wanted to be prepared for the future.

"Whānau are always a bit sceptical of anything that looks like research, but I'm not too worried about that not everyone is on board.

"It's just about making a start with those that are interested in it."

Vision Mātauranga Deep South Challenge board member Sir Mark Solomon said Māori still needed more information about how to adapt and address climate change issues.

He said those studies were a starting point in giving Māori a direction into knowing how to prepare.

"Maybe in the future we can't do beef and sheep on our lands, we don't know yet. But the more information we can gather to be prepared can only be a positive and it's important that we're involved."

All seven science projects are due to finish in 2019.

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