A little background
A brief mihimihi (introduction) first to begin this yarn as per Māori customs. I am a woman of mixed heritage (a Māori/Pākehā/Other hybrid), who isn’t fluent in Te Reo Māori (the Māori language), and who can't spell to save herself (due to dyslexia). I became interested in geography and history as a child.
My interest in geography and the local environment spiked as I began to observe a decline in the indigenous fish (like tuna, īnanga, kōaro and banded kokopu) I caught as a child in the Waioeka River (which runs through the town of Ōpōtiki). It has relatively become difficult for families to ‘get a feed’ (enough to eat for a meal) from a day’s fishing trip unlike in past generations. I ended up deciding to study geography and history, first at the University of Waikato and later at the University of Sydney, out of an initial desire to understand what was happening in my local environment. I came to learn about the links between settler colonialism, Māori dispossession and socio-economic deprivation, and the worsening state of our environment.
The freshwater degradation, for instance, is the result of ongoing and cumulative impacts which include (but are not limited to): government-led and individual-led drainage schemes that reduced coastal wetlands by more than 90 per cent; the felling and burning of most indigenous forests; the seeding of exotic grassland pastures that were (increasingly heavily) stocked with cows and sheep; the discharge of sediment (eroded from lands), effluent, fertilisers, agro-chemicals, and other waste products into waterways; the dumping of rubbish and industrial waste into and alongside rivers; and the establishment of flood control works (drainage canals, pumping stations, stop banks, the removal of riparian vegetation, and the dredging of riverbeds).
The impacts of climate change are worsening the existing problems of freshwater degradation and difficulties of accessing mahinga kai (food gathering sites), toxic algae blooms are becoming more common because of warmer temperatures, more intense high rainfall events heighten the risks of flooding and landslides, and droughts and invasive species outbreaks have become more noticeable. Yet, Māori, like other Indigenous peoples, possess a tremendous capacity to adapt to shocks, disruptions and changes which is embedded within their systems of knowledge, tikanga (laws), and environmental management and governance approaches. Thus, I am dedicated to finding ways that Indigenous peoples can use their Indigenous Knowledge, alongside other knowledge systems, can exercise their rights of self-determination, and create sustainable ways of living in the Anthropocene. In doing so, I hope we can enhance our collective health and well-being, create new climate resilient development pathways, and be able to live meaningful lives despite all the challenges presented by climate change and other environmental issues.