Saturday, December 4

Bay of Plenty iwi defends indigenous perspective on climate change

An iwi in the Maketū town of Bay of Plenty is developing its own climate strategies as the area’s landscape is threatened.

Maketū, Bay of Plenty City

Maketū, Bay of Plenty.
Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

Maketū, a spit sticking out like a nose in the Bay of Plenty, is where Tama-te-kapua’s waka sank into the white sand, its descendants fanned inland to form the iwi, Te Arawa.

The city, with its iconic fish and chip shop and cake factory, sits between the Kaituna estuary and the rolling ocean, its waves nibbling the white cliffs of Okurei Hill.

Moerangi Potiki is the president of the Ngāti Whakaue Conference in Maketū. She grew up there, becoming mute in the estuary, looking out over the crystal blue bay and fishing in the nearby sandy dunes.

He said the city is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“The waters have risen towards Okurei, where the seaside store is, the surf club. All of that is eroding,” he said. “That’s the ocean, we can’t control that.”

In recent years, Maketū has suffered from coastal flooding, including near the city’s marae, and two years ago, large swells exposed a urupā on top of a cliff in Okurei, and the bones fell to the beach below.

Maketū in the Bay of Plenty

Maketū, Bay of Plenty.
Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

Potiki said that the climatic threat to Maketū was a threat to the intrinsic ties that many Te Arawa whānau had.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” he said. “The waters are part of our livelihood, there is history there, there is tupuna there, the waka is there.

“When people impact them, you are actually impacting us in more ways than they realize, let alone understand.”

Iwi is increasingly taking stock of the impact that climate change will have on traditional and cultural practice, and the intrinsic links with elements that are a growing threat.

And with world leaders set to gather for a major climate summit in Glasgow next week, they said it is a vital perspective missing both here and abroad.

Te Arawa is one of a growing number of iwi developing their own climate strategies.

The head of the Te Arawa Climate Change Task Force, Lani Kereopa, said it was the result of growing unrest among the Whānau from Maketū, through the Rotorua lakes, to Tongariro.

“The thing about our marae is that most of them were built next to our rivers, next to the oceans because [of] the resources, the kaimoana, “he said.

“So that’s the heart of our cultural infrastructure that’s really at risk and that’s why we have to start having conversations.”

Kereopa said Te Arawa was now looking at how it uses its land, spends its funds and allocates its resources.

Shaun Awatere is a researcher at Manaaki Whenua, Landcare Research, and one of the authors of a new report published last week. He synthesized climate research, including major IPCC reports that inform world politics, through a Maori lens.

Dr. Awatere said that the decline of species such as pipi and kōura will affect the usual practice; marae and papakainga can be lost or relocated; and changes in biodiversity could affect identity and practice. But it would also have a significant impact on the Maori economy, land and fisheries resources.

“What we were able to do was incorporate a more holistic approach that includes social elements, cultural elements,” he said.

“So, for example, look at fishing in terms of the well-being that whānau, hapū can achieve by going out and doing the usual fishing and also the manaakitanga that is enabled when they do that activity.”

But there were also conflicting effects until the Maramataka, the Maori lunar calendar.

“What we’re seeing is that as our climate changes, the times of the year when pollination occurs or when fish are migrating are also changing, so the maramataka has had to adapt.”

Dr. Awatere said that these effects are largely absent from the current discourse and that this country needs to improve its incorporation into politics.

That’s a criticism heard around the world, and crucial UN climate talks will take place in Scotland next week.

Previous COP summits have been criticized for the lack of indigenous voices, who have been saying what was needed for years.

Away from Glasgow, it is something that Moerangi Potiki has also seen in Maketū.

“We have had a discussion with people in the climate change space, you know they have told us about the changes that have occurred,” he recalled.

“And it’s like, without disrespecting him, we know what the changes are that you don’t need to tell us. In fact, we even have the answers if people stop to think about it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *