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Thursday 31 October 2019 9:33am

Climate change, Marae Communities and Cultural Connectedness - the problems and the opportunities


We are providing three PhD scholarships and fees to students who are interested in looking at solutions to climate change problems for Māori communities. Students would join in a multi-disciplinary team of academics, private sector and Crown Research Institute individuals, along with recent Māori social science graduates from Otago University. We are keen to support emerging scholars who may be interested in climate change mitigation for their own communities, or who might be interested in any topic (see summary of the programme below) that ranges from local government policy development, to sector — specific initiatives (concerning, for example, farms), to household-level adaptation opportunities and challenges, community leadership to oversee change, and many other topics.

We are keen to support students with backgrounds in any social science, business, law or environmental science.

Proect summary

The environmental and economic ramifications of climate change mitigation and environmental resilience for Māori land and kainga are significant. The socio-cultural implications for Māori are equally troubling: today most community members of kainga are urban-based and disconnected from their homelands. Aotearoa has one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world. Agriculture contributes approximately 50% of total GHG, more than any other developed country. 1 kg beef alone produces approximately 26.5kg CO2. The problems for Māori are significant because most kin communities are rural, in the midst of the major GHG sources. Approximately half of their farmed lands are agricultural. Dairying on Māori land has dramatically increased by 84.8% in just 10 years to 2016. Kainga are particularly vulnerable. Already we are seeing more extreme shifts in climate, resulting in soil degradation, flooding, accelerated erosion, increased waters sedimentation, and pathogen and pollutant loading. Local and downstream catchment biodiversity on which kainga have thrived for generations are significantly threatened. Coastal kainga are at risk from rising sea levels, pathogen-loaded estuaries, pH-disrupted salination of river mouths and sediment-clogged harbours.

No research has been done on the twin concerns affecting Māori communities relating to carbon and culture, and which is concerned with developing novel community-based investment and leadership scenarios.

Our overarching hypothesis is, therefore:

That a low carbon and a high culturally connected community is important in strengthening community and environmental resilience.

We ask:

What suite of investment and leadership options are good for rural (Māori) communities in their pursuit of low carbon and high cultural connectedness futures?

Investment options that could be explored:

  • Zero waste marae
  • Mixed forestry and nursery development for sequestration, economic development and other uses (e.g. riparian planting, marae ngahere)
  • Pest (e.g. possum) liquid foliar fertiliser (economic development via employment also)
  • Waste to heat
  • Solar marae and community (towards 'net zero' energy cost)
  • Wetland restoration (as natural carbon sinks)
  • New mixed land uses beyond red meat
  • Micro economy development from locally-produced hua (food, plants, trees, rongoa) connecting descendants living locally and afar
  • Using Smart Ag technology, developing a tikanga-guided tech for community use (e.g. phone, tablet) to better understand climatic, environmental and social patterns and behaviours and better equip communities to respond, contributing to low emissions future for now and for mokopuna of tomorrow.

Investment scenarios put 'culture' back into agriculture and land and 'eco' back into economy.

Broad Outcomes of programme

To develop innovative leadership models, plans, cultural measurement models and tikanga-guided technology to transform community action in response to climate change and cultural connectedness challenges.

Research Aims

  1. What customary values can shape a new leadership to oversee transformative change?
  2. What are communities' aspirations and challenges and what novel, cost-effective and culturally-sensitive innovations aid transformative pathways for marae communities?
  3. What environmental and social variables shape a comprehensive kainga dashboard to better understand climate change effects and respond from informed and cultural values standpoints?
  4. How can Smart Ag technology and tikanga work together for community use to monitor climatic, environmental and community patterns, aid smart responses and promote low carbon and high culturally-connected futures?
  5. What findings can input into national and UN policy?
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