Risk management for Māori coastal assets

Coastal Māori farming communities are already affected by sea level rise. Erosion of the beach and even the collapse of some coastal infrastructure during storms is happening in several parts of the country. Effects such as flooding due to rising groundwater are subtler and more widespread. 

Horowhenua coastline

This project builds on the significant collective knowledge about climate change risks and opportunities built throughout 2015–17 in the rohe of Horowhenua– Kāpiti. This second phase of our project aims to take another step towards change: co-developing Transition Action Plans that, given local conditions, will enable Māori communities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to assess the risks and benefits of alternative coastal land use.

In the first phase of our project, we combined data about soil, floods, topography, river sedimentation and sea level rise to identify the most vulnerable areas of our coastal farms. We also used an interdisciplinary approach to identify indicators of change and staged strategies for adaptation. This second phase will examine physical processes such as future change in groundwater levels, and identify a wider range of options for managing wetlands and landscapes.

Although multiple reports have been produced about coastal erosion risks – including by local and regional councils – none have highlighted social engagement processes that could lead to effective community action. Our Māori-led interdisciplinary action research approach prioritises social engagement when considering how to respond to sea level rise and other climate change impacts. 


Final research report:
Please note this report contains many photographs and illustrations. Due to the large file size, we have split the report into three parts. Please contact the research team if you would like to access the report in a single file.


This project in the media:
Māori are among the most vulnerable to climate change Stuff NZ
Seven projects advance Māori climate research, Radio NZ
The third Wai o Papa Exhibition: A project of hope for Māori Coastal communities, Deep South Challenge
Breaking the ice, NIWA


Journal articles:

  • Climate Change Adaptations for Coastal Farms: Bridging Science and Mātauranga Māori with Art and Design, Penny Allan, Martin Bryant and Huhana Smith, The Plan Journal (2018)
  • Mātauranga Māori, art and design: unconventional ways for addressing climate change impacts, Huhana Smith, Penny Allan and Martin Bryant, Key Concepts in Indigenous Studies (2018)
  • Moving from Phase One to Two: Mātauranga Māori, Art, Design, Ecological Economics and Climate Change Science, Huhana Smith, European Society for Oceanists publication (2018)
  • Thresholds and contingencies: a design process for regional coastal resilience, Penny Allan and Martin Bryant, Design for Coastal Resilience (2018)