Climate Change & Kainga Resilience

Paora Tapsell - IIRC20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

How can our marae communities and their descendants better shape a future that builds community and environmental resilience in response to climate change? This is the driving question underpinning a five year research programme funded by MBIE’s Endeavour Research fund.

Climate change is arguably one of ‘the’ most concerning kaupapa (issues) of modern times. Of course humanity is concerned with many other major concerns, not least poverty, pollution, energy, food, disease (Covid-19 right now) and war. The sustainable development goals point to these challenges.

For Māori land and kainga, the environmental and economic ramifications of climate change mitigation and environmental resilience are significant. The socio-cultural implications for Māori are equally troubling: today most community members of kainga are urban-based and disconnected from their homelands. Aotearoa has one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world. Agriculture contributes approximately 50% of total GHG, more than any other developed country. 1 kg beef alone produces approximately 26.5kg CO2. The problems for Māori are significant because most kin communities are rural, in the midst of the major GHG sources. Approximately half of their farmed lands are agricultural. Dairying on Māori land has dramatically increased by 84.8% in just 10 years to 2016. Kainga are particularly vulnerable. Already we are seeing more extreme shifts in climate, resulting in soil degradation, flooding, accelerated erosion, increased waters sedimentation, and pathogen and pollutant loading. Local and downstream catchment biodiversity on which kainga have thrived for generations are significantly threatened. Coastal kainga are at risk from rising sea levels, pathogen-loaded estuaries, pH-disrupted salination of river mouths and sediment-clogged harbours.

It is time, therefore, to work with our communities on what their particular views
are on climate change, what they have seen changing, what their aspirations
might be in responding to changing climates and work with them on developing
novel community-based investment and leadership scenarios.

The basis of our approach in working with our communities is that a low carbon
and a high culturally connected community is important in strengthening
community and environmental resilience.

First priorities have been to strengthen relationships (whakawhanaungatanga)
and work out how we can best support one another on this kaupapa/project. We
have identified research parameters that best suit communities as they think
about what information they need to know relating to their people and landscapes
as a basis for then exploring options and ideas that improve resilience in response
to changing climates. This kōrero or presentation discusses progress so far.