Skip to content

Exploring the impact of climate change on Māori

Māori governance institutions are increasingly asserting their rangatiratanga (autonomy) to manage climate change risks and meet the well-being of whānau, hapū, and iwi. However, there is a shortage of guidance and understanding on how to prepare for and respond to this changing environment, and how to address the challenge in a way that reflects Māori world views and values.

Manaaki Whenua researchers, including Senior Kairangahau Māori (Māori researcher) Dr Shaun Awatere, have been part of a multidisciplinary team of Māori researchers, coordinated by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, to help fill this knowledge gap, identify risks, and explore climate change mitigation and adaption solutions for Māori. Researchers have produced a report: He huringa āhuarangi, he huringa ao: A changing climate, a changing world, which summarises the latest research and guidance on observed and projected climate change impacts on whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori business throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Amid the observed and projected impacts presented in the report, researchers found that many whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori businesses hold deep concerns about how climate change will affect livelihoods, health, culture, and the environment. The report found that climate change not only threatens the tangible components of Māori well-being, but also the spiritual components and, most importantly, the well-being of future generations. The assessment shows that Māori well-being across all domains will be moderately affected by 2050, but that by 2100 the impacts to ecosystems are likely to be severe, compromising many aspects of Māori well-being. 

Researchers say that whānau, hapū, and iwi will need to consider adaptation strategies that protect the integrity of te reo me ōna tikanga (Māori language and customs); future-proof existing cultural infrastructure; and provide flexibility as well as safeguards to enable whānau to engage in social/cultural activities that enhance well-being and ensure an enduring cultural legacy for future generations.

It concludes there is a need for further integrated assessments and understanding of climate change risks from a te ao Māori perspective, and for different groups and communities to develop a more targeted set of adaptation and resilience strategies to address the complex set of multiple stresses, disparities, and inequalities exacerbated through climate change and uphold Māori interests under the Treaty of Waitangi.  

Key contact