10 Dec 2021

Bay of Plenty hapū prepare for climate change impact

3:21 pm on 10 December 2021

Māori-led initatives in the Bay of Plenty will be seeking ways to tackle the impact of climate change, with the help of new funding from the regional council.

Kaiwhakahaere for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū, Roana Bennett.

Kaiwhakahaere for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū, Roana Bennett. Photo: Supplied / Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Hapū Ngāi Tamawhāriua and The Māketu iwi collective each received $15,000 from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council as a part of the community-led climate change adaptation fund.

It is a response to each area's determination to explore how climate change will affect their communities.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū kaiwhakahaere Roana Bennett said the community wanted to use wānanga to address their climate concerns.

An iwi led approach towards climate change meant it could be handled in a holistic way, she said.

"The rūnanga has worked for quite some time now in the environment space and the impact of climate change is something that we've been very aware of with growing concern and consternation about what may happen to our beautiful community, the hāpori of Maketū.

"We think that an iwi led approach will take on a holistic view of all aspects of climate change impacts and how we need to plan going forward.

"The thing about climate change is it is a slow-burn crisis. We are in a crisis, but iwi are very well positioned to address it, to lead the community because of our holistic view of the environment and our inter-generation perspective."

The small coastal community of Maketū has noticed small but concerning changes in the environment around them, prompting the iwi collective to work to find solutions.

They are aiming to host a series of wānanga where the community can take stock and develop an action plan for moving forward together, Bennett said.

"Some of the forecasts that are coming out from Niwa and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council are forecasting that at least 40 properties in Maketū are going to be susceptible to increased flooding.

"So we thought we'd step up and start taking a more proactive approach in terms of looking at medium to long-term prognosis for Maketū and working with the community to prepare for the climate change impacts that are on there way.

"Our traditional way of learning is to wānanga, our traditional way of addressing issues that arise is to wānanga so our idea is to pull people together and talk about climate change, the signs of climate change, our mātauranga iwi and to come up with solutions that suit Maketū."

The upper northern Bay of Plenty hapū of Ngāi Tamawhāriua is also aiming to incorporate wānanga into its Māori-led approach towards combatting the future impacts of climate change.

This is due to the noticeable deteriotion of certain environmental spaces in their area.

Te Rereatukahia Marae Komiti chair Ngairo Eruera.

Te Rereatukahia Marae Komiti chair Ngairo Eruera. Photo: Supplied / Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Te Rereatukāhia marae chairperson Ngairo Eruera said over the last 40 to 50 years kaumātua had spoken of abundant sea life and living off the land and waterways - something that was no longer a reality.

"Our old people have been sharing stories about their way of life when they were kids and some of the privileges, I guess, that they no longer can experience with their mokopuna, even with my generation.

With houses on the coastline, rising sea levels and changes in weather made the hapū eager to find out what climate change impacts would mean for their marae and papakainga.

Council funding would go towards resourcing people and hiring experts who could point the hapū in the right direction for finding solutions.

Eruera said another solution was looking to relocate their people and rehouse the younger generations further inland over the next several years.

The Ngāi Tamawhāriua community would harness mātauranga Māori knowledge, he said.

"We are looking forward to our mokopuna and possibly our own tamariki and their tamariki either moving further inland or just relocating parts of the village, and relocate the whole kainga eventually.

"Similar to other hapū, marae and iwi, the retention of that traditional knowledge and how to interact with the land, how to maintain the land, seasonal use of the land and the waterways, understanding weather patterns and what it means moving forward, those are some of things we think about in terms of wānanga that are specific to the environment" he said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council general manager of integrated catchments Chris Ingle said these were difficult conversations being driven by community for community.

"Some communities are more vulnerable to climate change than others.

"This can especially be the case for any hapū and iwi whose coastal marae were constructed near to sources of kaimoana," Ingle said.