Bay of Plenty iwi puts own climate change strategy in place for Maketū

Bay of Plenty iwi puts own climate change strategy in place for Maketū
Bay of Plenty iwi puts own climate change strategy in place for Maketū Photo credit: RNZ/ Andy Belcher

By Pokere Paewi RNZ

An iwi in the Bay of Plenty has developed its own climate change strategy, and they want whānau to have a climate change kōrero this Christmas.

The township of Maketu is already seeing the impacts of climate change, its low-lying areas of coastline are vulnerable to water inundation and erosion.

The plan, called He Toka Tū Moana Mō Maketu, has been put together to help manage future loss.

Hemi O'Callaghan of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketu said the impetus for the plan began after large swells exposed a cliff-top urupā at Okurei, and bones from the ancient urupā came tumbling down onto the beach below.

"Koinā te kākano, koinā tērā kua whakakāngia te ahi ki a mātau nei kia whai i ēnei huarahi, me he rautaki me pēhea tātau e tūtaki ana ki tēnei mea te huringa o te āhuarangi."

O'Callaghan said that lit a fire under the iwi and drove them to come up with a plan to confront climate change head on.

Roana Bennet, kaiwhakahaere for Te Rūnanga, said this summer was a perfect time to kick off the first phase of the plan.

"At Maketu it's like a lot of coastal places, the population doubles with all the whanaunga coming home for summer. So it's a really good time to have a climate kōrero, and that's really what we're pushing in these early days of the plan being released."

There were projects happening in the area already but the idea of the plan was to bring the entire community together to make a collective impact, Bennet said.

Maketu was threatened by climate change in several ways, first was extreme heat waves, which could lead to vulnerable people suffering from heat exhaustion, she said.

"The second potential threat specific to Maketu is water inundation. Very heavy rain events will create significant water runoff and it all heads to the sea.

"Even without the anticipated sea level rise when you combine a heavy rain event with king tide we could have flooding on a regular basis at Maketu. And this will potentially affect around 40 properties that are in the low lying areas, and one of those properties is our tupuna whare Whakaue," she said.

Another concern identified in the plan was the threat of the town's aquifer becoming inundated with salt water.

Hemi O'Callaghan said that the plan would include a focus on education, teaching rangatahi about science and matauranga Māori.

"Ētahi atu o ngā mahi kei te haramai kia whakatū ai he hōtaka mo ngā māra, kia tū hoki he māra ki te kainga."

"Ka timata hoki ētahi mahi kia whakapapai i ngā whare, me ngā whakaaro mehemea me hūnuku mai ana ō tātau whare. Kua timata kē ēna whakawhitinga kōrero," he said.

Other parts of the plan would include the development of māra kai gardens, a community emergency response plan and a land use change project.

O'Callaghan said there were also discussions happening about whether houses in vulnerable areas may need to be moved.

Both Bennet and O'Callaghan stressed that there were many ways small communities like Maketu could use their voices to affect larger change.