Climate Change & Coastal Māori Communities

river at Ohau farm

Nature, culture, design, contemporary art and science

Using the knowledge systems of whakapapa (genealogy), hīkoi (walking) and kōrero tuku iho (ancestral knowledge) to activate community understandings of and responses to climate change.

Project Duration: October 2015 – March 2017

Project Budget: $250, 000

Based around two coastal Māori farms and a whānau trust in the Horowhenua-Kāpiti region, this project collaborated with iwi and hapū to identify culturally informed climate change adaptation strategies. We also tested the economic, environmental and cultural implications of each strategy through a series of designed, whole-of-farm scenarios.

All participants, including Māori land- and farm-owners, scientists and senior architecture students, co-designed solutions around land and water use that brought together understandings of kaitiakitanga as well as of climate change risks. We identified many possibilities for rejuvenation and transformation, including moving from dairying to other types of farming (such as algae farming, green-lipped mussels or fish hatcheries), or to growing sustainable cash crops such as flax or mānuka honey from bees.

We shared our collective learning through hui and ongoing exhibitions – including one in an old dairy shed next to the Kuku Stream. The project created real opportunities for hapū and iwi to consider how they might adapt their land management and community planning in line with future sea level rise, coastal erosion, salinification and extreme weather. In this way, the project offers a model of participation and engagement that might assist other communities to come together and move forward in a changing climate.

Contact Principal Investigator:

Dr Huhana Smith, Te Rangitāwhia Whakatupu Mātauranga Ltd

Massey University – Palmerston North, Email:


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