The first specialist research and public consultation on the impact that climate change could have on the vast Kaipara Harbour coast and catchment area has been set in motion by the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group (IKHMG).
The group held its first climate change hui at Otamatea Marae last month, where academic Danielle Johnson highlighted potential socioeconomic, cultural and environmental impacts on the region and called for community input into possible solutions.
The University of Arizona researcher has been working with the IKHMG since May, interviewing farmers and landowners, council staff and many other stakeholders in the catchment area. She is doing her Master’s degree on how local communities might be affected and how they could adapt to climate change. She will report back by December.
About 20 people from Helensville north to Dargaville attended the initial meeting, including iwi, hapu, farmers, residents, council officers, students and local board members.
IKHMG programme manager Willie Wright stressed that the hui and Danielle’s research was just the first step, as no one had addressed climate change and how it might affect the Kaipara up to now.
“Where this will lead to I don’t know, but we have to start somewhere,” he said. “It has to be owned by the community, by everyone, and it will be a living discussion. There will be many more huis and it could take years.”
Danielle presented the latest national and international research showing predicted changes in temperature, weather, sea levels, water temperatures and acidification, and pests. Many at the meeting reported witnessing numerous incidences of changing conditions in and around the Kaipara, from flowering and growing seasons being ‘out of sync’ to a sharp increase in the number of severe flooding events in recent years.
Ngati Whatua representative Tame Te Rangi said rather than relying on ‘outside’, Government-led views of climate change and the Kaipara Harbour, there needed to be a community-led stocktake of everything within the catchment.
“We need an environmental stocktake prior to coming up with solutions or a position. We have got to understand the space we’re in,” he said. “We need to look at the resilience we have at a community level, and inclusive, community-driven policies and research.”
Rodney Local Board member Brenda Steele said the hui could only provide a snapshot of what was a vast issue that affected everything and everybody.
“If the harbour isn’t healthy, we’re not healthy. We can’t separate ourselves from this harbour,” she said. “We need to adapt, and we need the data behind it, but people are adapting all the time. This is a long-term strategy and involves everybody.
“It’s big picture stuff, and it needs to be in people’s faces, the opportunities as well as the threats.”
Danielle Johnson also made a presentation to the IKHMG quarterly hui in Wellsford on July 6, where members and stakeholders stressed that they were keen to see her findings and recommendations of how to move forward presented in an easy to understand format when she reported back in December.