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This is how we're responding in Canterbury wide.

Ngāi Tahu and climate change

Aotearoa’s climate has varied significantly since Māori first arrived. Changes in practices and customs that are strongly influenced by weather are a key to tracing climate back through the centuries.

Traditional Māori knowledge of weather and climate, and of associated activities, such as gardening and fishing, has contributed to our understanding of past climatic variations. Climate affects the winds, waves, and ocean currents, and influences which plants, trees, and birds are found in various parts of the country. It is the natural world that sustains people, physically, economically, and spiritually hence the well-being of iwi is deeply connected to the well-being of the environment.

Through the generations, Māori have built up an extensive knowledge of the local climate, from the character of local winds and rain to the forecasting of drier and warmer summers. This knowledge has traditionally helped to make important decisions, such as when is the best time to plant, farm, harvest, fish, and navigate.

Climate change could have an impact on all of these activities. Mātauranga Māori has been of immeasurable value when coupled with the scientific understanding of climate change; how Māori coped with past climate extremes, such as floods and droughts, may help us adapt to future climate changes.

Here in Te Waipounamu, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has recognised the threat climate change poses to the deep relationship the iwi have with the natural world; landscapes, resources and taonga species will all be affected.

There is a need to consider the impacts of climate change across a multi layered spectrum of rights and interests. In recognition of this, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu have responded to Government policy shifts in relation to climate change by demanding stronger action. They have also developed a tribal response in the form of He Rautaki Mō Te Huringa o Te Āhuarangi Climate Change Strategy.

In preparing the strategy, feedback from whānau was gathered via online surveys and marae based hui. A report from NIWA – Taihoro Nukurangi was commissioned with a specific brief that focused on places and taonga important to Ngāi Tahu.

The “snapshots” provided an overview of the different impacts expected across the takiwā; Te Tai o Poutini (the West Coast) may become wetter, while on the east coast Kā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha, the Canterbury Plains, will become drier.

Of major concern was the impact for coastal communities and marae, and potential changes warmer oceans may have on kaimoana. Collective interests like culture and customary rights must be protected, and whanau and individual households may need support to navigate the inevitable changes that society will make.

Significantly, the strategy takes an inter-generational, long-term perspective; looking to the past to honour the knowledge of tūpuna and to the future for those yet to come. This intergenerational respect is captured by the whakatauki: Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei (For us, and our children after us). It is about preparing now for what is currently known while also allowing for the emergence of new ideas and approaches over time.

Tribal economies will need to pivot to meet the risks and opportunities climate change will present, whilst hapū and papatipu rūnanga will continue to find ways to ensure mana whenua can appropriately exercise their rights and rangatiratanga in a changing environment.

It is about making ‘the most of opportunities so that Ngāi Tahu Whānui have every chance to thrive even in the most extreme scenarios’.