Mike Smith urges Māori to address Climate Change

By Te Rina Kowhai

Environmentalist Mike Smith is urging Māori living or working in coastal and river areas to start addressing the impacts and risks of climate change seriously.

An issue that is happening worldwide and at our doorstep. Smith says “Between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change our future is at stake the future of our mokopuna are at stake.”

Smith has produced animation videos showing the effects of a potential ten-meter sea level rise on coastal communities.

He says, “this is a very very graphic example of what the future is going to look like from now onwards. So it's got severe implications for all our coastal hapū, people who live on Rivers.”

The depictions in the video are based on a storm surges similar to what NZ experience just recently.

“Sea level rise and storm surges are one of the expected outcomes of climate change. So we've been attempting to alert our whanau, and people that are in positions of leadership as to what to anticipate, to make their communities, their hapū, whānau or iwi resilient to these types of events.”

He wants Māori to seriously address the issues of climate change now before it is too late.

“I will use a biblical analogy, Noah built the Ark before the floods came. He didn't wait till the waves came crashing through the lounge windows before he decided he needed a getaway plane.”

He also says, “We need the whole of society on this one not just the government because the government is not going to come sailing over our maunga and help us to hahu (dig up) our kōiwi (bodies) from our coastal urupā (cemeteries) and find somewhere else to put them. They not going to do that, we have to do that.”

Smith says climate change has arranged of affects with extreme drought in the summer and in the winter you have extreme rainfall events. Just this week alone, Sydney had the highest temperature recorded, turtles were cold stunned in the waters of Florida and in Massachusetts experienced a similar storm surge to New Zealand.

“You've got streets of cars parked up with water halfway up the cars, not just floodwaters but it's actually frozen seawater so those cars are frozen into place. And these are events that no one has ever seen before these are radically new events that are outside the experience of the local people.”

Smith says adaptation is part of the solution but we need to prevent the temperatures from rising any further therefore we need to keep stopping the source of it.

“One thing that we've been doing is going right to the source which is the drilling of our fossil fuels in our takutaimoana (coastal area) and the extraction of those fossil fuels, and we have been campaigning successfully around country for the last seven or eight years.”

“We need to start making measures the first thing is to not build anywhere near those affected areas don't build any new houses. Secondly consider relocating communities.”

For now mitigating the risks within our communities is a start.