Coastal marae at risk of rising sea levels

By Talisa Kupenga

A Ngati Porou kaitiaki says she is not surprised at the findings of a local government report that shows rising seas putting $14bil worth of council-owned assets at risk.  However, Tui Warmenhoven says coastal marae are at risk too and this could have severe cultural impacts.

Twenty years ago, Warmenhoven was told her marae would need to relocate.

"We've probably got around 15 marae in proximity to the ocean but we'd have a lot more that would be impacted by sea level rises,-probably about 30- and yes, our urupa, our wāhi tapu and our cultural resources."

A newly released local government report shows $5.1bil worth of infrastructure is at risk if sea levels rise by one metre, but this cost nearly trebles if the sea levels rise to three metres.

"We've actually sat down with the Minister of Civil Defence and local government to say we need support, we need resources, because our marae have in the past and will in the future be the stronghold in times of natural disaster for the whole community."

The government is working on a national risk assessment for climate change and Minister for Climate Change James Shaw says Māori need to be central to those discussions.

Te Kāea asked whether government would consider funding to help relocate marae.

Shaw says, "Funding is one of the big issues we're looking at this year and there are a lot of things at risk, there's marae, local and central government assets so I've actually said this has got to be one of the top priorities- just thinking through how do we pay for this transition over the course of the coming decades."

No data was provided by local councils for Kaikōura and the Gisborne region.

Areas already experiencing rising sea level impacts include Hawke's Bay, the Bay of Plenty, the West Coast, and South Dunedin.