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Māori need to be a part of community-led retreat kōrero

Te Tumu Paeroa is encouraging Māori landowners to have their say on crucial decisions about community-led retreat.

Parliament’s Environment Committee is currently calling for submissions on a climate adaptation inquiry. The inquiry will address community-led retreat specifically – who moves, when, how and who pays for it.

Cyclone Gabrielle has pushed the impact of climate change front and centre for communities in Aotearoa, specifically, the risks presented by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. 

Whānau, businesses, schools and communities living close to the coast or waterways are starting to have difficult conversations about whether or not they can stay where they are long-term. 

“If we don’t adapt – which in some cases does mean retreat – we’ll be in a constant cycle of damage and recovery, with more and more risk to people and property,” says Māori Trustee Dr Charlotte Severne. 

Around 75 percent of the whenua that the Māori Trustee administers is in low-lying areas or is within 500 metres of the coastline. This makes it susceptible to damaging storms and floods.

Te Tumu Paeroa will be making a submission to the climate adaptation inquiry and would appreciate input from landowners – there are some details at the end of this page about how to do that. 

But we would also encourage whenua Māori owners, whānau, hapū and iwi to give their own feedback on the inquiry. 

“Māori, and indigenous peoples around the world, will be disproportionately affected by climate change. There are crucial decisions being made right now that will affect Māori for generations to come. Māori need to speak up now,” said Dr Severne.

For more information about the inquiry, see the questions and answers below, or go direct to the Parliament website. The inquiry closes on Wednesday, November 1. 

How do I contribute to Te Tumu Paeroa's submission? 

Send your pātai or whakaaro to [email protected] before October 16. 

Why is the Environment Committee having a climate adaptation inquiry? 

The recent extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Gabrielle and the Northland/Auckland floods, have illustrated how urgent the issue of climate change adaptation is. There is currently no comprehensive system for managing adaptation actions, like community-led retreat, or policies on who pays for it.  

What do they want feedback on?

There is a broad list of issues the Environment Committee is interested in hearing about from the public, which includes Māori participation, Crown obligations, and how to best give effect to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi, and how to integrate mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori across the adaptation system.

The National Adaptation Plan, released in August last year, set out some of the action that needs to be taken to make sure people and places are as protected as they can be from the impacts of climate change.

But the detail of how community-led retreat works, and who pays for it, is still to be decided. 

The Ministry for the Environment has published an issues and options paper which, together with the feedback from this inquiry, should inform draft laws that set out this detail. 

What’s adaptation and community-led retreat?

Community-led retreat is moving people, homes, businesses and taonga out of harm’s way, in a carefully planned process that involves the community at every step. While building seawalls and stop banks or raising buildings are other examples of adaptation, this may not work in all areas, and may not be a feasible long-term solution. 

What are the issues for whenua Māori and Māori communities around adaptation?

There has been some good research and reporting on what may happen in the future and why this issue is important, and we’ve provided a few links below. 

But what Government need to hear right now, is how will it be for you? The impact of rising sea levels, changing rivers, flooding, drought, erosion and extreme weather events will be different for every piece of whenua and every person and community. 

Te Tumu Paeroa can give them a general idea of how the whenua that the Māori Trustee administers is affected: we estimate that at least 75 percent of the land is susceptible to extreme weather events, increasing in frequency and intensity with climate change. 

But the solutions are also deeply personal, and it’s important that Māori are involved in these discussions so they can retain rangatiratanga during this difficult process. 

Further reading:

What’s the Environment Committee? 

Select committees are small groups of MPs from different political parties in Parliament that focus on the detail of certain areas of the government’s work. This ranges from Health to Primary Production, and the committees look at matters such as public spending and proposed new laws (bills). The Environment Committee is what it sounds like – focused on environmental issues. 

What’s an inquiry? 

This is a select committee inquiry. The Environment Committee wants to hear from a range of different groups and people on climate adaptation. They will then write a report for Government, which may include recommendations. Although Parliament has now been dissolved and it may be different MPs on the Environment Committee after the general election, the inquiry is continuing. 

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