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Better climate interaction sought

As climate change becomes a reality, local land holdings group Wairarapa Moana Incorporation is calling for better government engagement with Māori groups about adaptation.

In a summary of submissions published by the Ministry for the Environment and Te Puni Kōkiri, the government’s policy advisor for Māori wellbeing and development, Wairarapa Moana representatives Anaru Smiler, Anne Carter and Sonya Rimene raised their concerns about engagement and inclusion of Māori in climate change adaptation.

The report said all submitters asked for more action to support Māori climate change adaptation, while many commented on the “challenging and complex nature” of the task ahead.

It said there was a “sentiment among submitters of wanting to adapt at place”, and for Māori to be empowered to continue to exercise their Treaty rights and protect their interests.

Rimene said that Māori are adaptable: “We know only too well what it’s like to be uprooted, dislocated and displaced.”

She said the success of Māori can be attributed to resilience and the exercise of our rangatiratanga [self-determination], which stems from Te Tiriti [The Treaty of Waitangi].

The report said although many submitters recommended “robust and meaningful adaptation conversations” between the Crown, Māori and local government, that need to be balanced and “recognise engagement fatigue caused by the many and varied Crown and local government engagement and consultation requests of Māori”.

Wairarapa Moana commented that the Crown and councils often undertake engagement with “the incorrect Māori groups”, primarily with post-settlement governance entities, which it said are not always the right groups to engage with.

“It is important to not just focus on engaging with the post-settlement governance entities since much of Māori land is owned by collectives of shareholders or trusts that represent those shareholders. These trusts are separate from iwi and hapū in the sense of governance over their whenua,” it said.

The report said many submitters explained that Māori are already fighting to protect their taonga through Resource Management Act 1991 and Public Works Act 1981 processes.

“There is a risk of further dispossession if the problems inherent in existing processes are not addressed.”

Submitters argued that Māori communities need to be directly involved in, and sufficiently resourced to either co-design or lead the development of their own solutions to climate change, including making decisions on adaptation plans that directly affect them.

“Mana Whakahaere – recognise the full range of rights and interests at place in our communities.

“And that it requires a very inclusive approach by Māori for Māori,” Smiler said.

Submitters also called for the Crown to share data and information more freely, to enable iwi, hapū and hapori Māori to undertake adaptation planning for themselves.

Smiler said Māori need the government to provide them with information, data and knowledge that it holds.

“We need them to be able to share that with us more easily, which will help us work through things ourselves.

Smiler said people need to put aside self-interest and “focus on what is right for the whenua and how we can work together to best look after it”.

He said an indigenous approach focuses whenua [land] and honours the whakapapa [genealogy]connecting all living beings.

The report summarised that because Māori land holdings do not extend all the way from the mountains to the sea, Smiler also suggested engagement needs to happen with all the different communities of interest, for example, Māori land trusts, not just post-settlement governance entities.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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