Māori researcher looks at marae flooding risks

By Regan Paranihi

Akuhata Bailey-Winiata (Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) has been researching the risk of coastal marae to flooding. He is conducting a nationwide analysis of marae that are within 200 metres of the shoreline and rivers.

He hopes that his work can help develop a plan for marae that could be affected by storm events and sea-level rise. 

The project has been undertaken due to limited research on coastal marae and the potential dangers they could face in the future.

"There isn't a lot of nationwide done on this type of topic there's a couple done by surfing groups but this is sort of baseline research looking into this data," Bailey-Winiata says.

While his research is at its first stages, it focused on the finer details.

"It was looking at just obtaining baseline data so we can look further into the topic."

The key findings Bailey-Winiata found was that the majority of the marae that could be affected are based in the North Island.

"Most coastal marae in New Zealand are situated in the North Island around 90% of marae.

“It was also found that more than 45% of coastal marae are within 200 m of the coast and around 40% of marae which is closest to a river are within 200 m."

However he is hopeful his next stage of research can look more in-depth into how iwi and hapū can prepare themselves for the worst.

"We hope to look at which marae are more vulnerable to coastal inundation and we want to look at what methods we could put into place, to help those marae to better equip them for the events that would come in the future."

His undertakings have since inspired his own reo Māori journey.

"I have done Māori papers throughout university and it’s sort of led me to this type of work.

“I never really thought I’d have such a Māori connection with research but I have seemed to found my niche."

Bailey-Winiata will continue his research study while completing his masters.