Marae at risk of being 'totally consumed by rising sea'

3:36 pm on 5 August 2019

Many marae around Te Waipounamu (South Island) are under direct threat due to the effects of climate change, a Ngāi Tahu leader says.

Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere (director) Lisa Tumahai Lisa Tumahai opens the Climate Change Symposium.

Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere (director) Lisa Tumahai Lisa Tumahai opens the Climate Change Symposium. Photo: Supplied / Ngāi Tahu

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere (director) Lisa Tumahai made the comments at the inaugural Ngāi Tahu Climate Change Symposium on Sunday.

Ngāi Tahu hosted the wānanga to address the potential effects of climate change in its takiwā.

The symposium brought together representatives from each of the 18 papatipu rūnanga from throughout Te Waipounamu in order to raise awareness of climate change for iwi.

Mrs Tumahai said the symposium was an important step for the iwi in its commitment to addressing the growing threat of climate change.

"Many of our marae are found in low-lying, coastal areas and as such are at risk of coastal erosion and in some cases, of being totally consumed by rising sea levels in the coming years.

"Our marae are at the heart of our communities and we need to be prepared to help our papatipu rūnanga face these challenges head on."

Ngāi Tahu launched its Climate Change Strategy last year and Mrs Tumahai said now "the real mahi" was needed.

"It is my hope that this wānanga will help to empower rūnanga to be thinking about meaningful changes they can be making."

Ngāi Tahu rangatira Tā Tipene O'Regan opened the wānanga with an address on the ability of Ngāi Tahu to adapt to environmental changes and challenges.

The symposium was chaired by Mrs Tumahai and Kera Sherwood-O'Regan, and featured presentations and a panel discussion by New Zealand Climate Change ambassador Kay Harrison, chair of the Iwi Leaders Group for Climate Change Mike Smith, NIWA environmental scientist Dr Darren Ngaru King, and Te Arawa Lakes Trust environmental manager Nicki Douglas.

Following the panel discussion, the symposium attendees broke into workshops to cover off issues identified as critical, such as marae resilience, mahinga kai (food gathering) and water.

The day before the symposium, an open space workshop for rangatahi was held to ensure they had the opportunity to be included in the conversation.

"Our rakatahi know more than they think they know," Ms Sherwood-O'Regan said.

"You don't have to be a scientist or a policy person to be able to contribute to the climate kaupapa."

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