16 out of 18 marae at risk from flooding and rising sea levels: Lisa Tumahai, Ngāi Tahu

By Kelvin McDonald
Source: Ngāi Tahu / YouTube

The danger of climate change is "clear and present", Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai says in an opinion piece for the NZ Herald today.

One of her jobs as chair is helping whānau to understand and accept how widespread and comprehensive the effects of climate change are going to be, she says.

"We have to understand that climate change will come to affect every single family in Aotearoa."

Tumahai says Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has just released an 88-point action plan to tackle climate and related ecological issues. As part of the process, they have made a video to bring home the local dangers of this global crisis.

"The video outlines some of the places across our takiwā already in the frontline. The glaciers of the Southern Alps, the threats to mahinga kai (customary food gathering), the ūrupa (graveyards) crumbling into the ocean at Moeraki, the marae at Taumutu on the shores of Te Waihora that has to be evacuated at high tide in a storm."

Source: Ngāi Tahu / YouTube

"We are a coastal people and 16 out of our 18 marae are at risk from flooding and rising sea levels. As we can see from the testimonies of our people – the danger is clear and present," she says.

"Across the ditch tens of thousands in and around Sydney have been forced from their homes by torrential rain and flooding. La Nina exacerbated by climate change has seen some areas getting a year and half's rainfall in just four days.

"If we keep our hands over our ears it would be easy to regard these reports as extreme 'one in a hundred year' events. But we need to note how often these one in a hundred year events are happening.

"That's why one of the main planks of our action plan Te Kounga Paparangi involves empowering our marae to be resilient and self sufficient and to act as civil defence centres and climate refuges, when, not if, these extreme weather events come visit us.

"I hope we can all come together now to cast aside our fears and take action," says Tumahai.