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Iwi, environmental groups, and community resilience organisations in Hawke’s Bay are asking all local councils to rethink their approach to climate mitigation in light of the damage Cyclone Gabrielle inflicted on the region. 

Sustaining Hawke’s Bay Trust (Environment Centre Hawke’s Bay), Forest & Bird, Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, Te Taiwhenua o Te Whanganui ā Orotu, and Ngāti Kahungunu have sent an open letter to Hawke’s Bay councils with a list of recommendations encouraging a more holistic approach that will support healthy ecosystems and resilient communities. 

They will be presenting their asks to Napier City Council at a meeting on Thursday 8 June and hope to speak to all councils in the coming months. 

The letter was sent in response to the recently released Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Draft Environmental Resilience Plan, and the groups’ recommendations will help build intergenerational resilience in the face of weather events associated with ongoing climate change. 

Emma Horgan-Heke, CEO of Sustaining Hawke’s Bay Trust, says it’s important for communities to know where they stand in terms of the status of their homes and the rebuild. 

“Many of our communities have been devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle and they are still coming to terms with the impacts as well as the best way forward. We’ve seen whānau unable to return to their homes, as well as land that will take a long time to recover. 

“The last thing we want is to hold the rebuild up, but the way we have built and planned in the past has made our communities vulnerable,” Ms Hogan-Heke says. 

“We are asking for a ‘pause’ and reconsideration of the best way to recovery to ensure intergenerational resilience. To our minds this means a more inclusive approach that recognises the links and intergenerational importance of land to people and people to land. 

“It means using all our knowledge and experience – not just infrastructure solutions, but ones that take te taiao and our communities’ resilience into account. We want to bring everyone on this journey.” 

Ngaio Tiuka from Ngāti Kahungunu Taiao Unit (Ngāti Kahungunu) says we can’t continue the same old approach to controlling our waterways.  

“We need to genuinely respect the Mana of our rivers and stop just paying lip service to tangata whenua and their mātauranga and kaitiakitanga,” he says. 

Dr Chantal Pagel, Forest & Bird’s Regional Conservation Manager for the Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay, agrees that to strengthen our resilience to extreme weather events fuelled by climate change, we must start working with nature and not against it. 

“It’s only natural, and seems logical to many, to rebuild our communities similarly to pre-cyclone standards, but that kind of thinking does not build the resilience we will need when the next weather event strikes. 

“Auckland Council has just announced a big work programme incorporating nature-based solutions and ‘making space for water’ and we strongly believe the Hawke’s Bay should follow suit. 

“Rather than continuing with the status quo, we’d like to see independent, local experts in community resilience, environment and climate change included in the recovery planning to ensure our environment and communities can cope with whatever the future brings,” Dr Pagel says. 

The groups’ eight recommendations are: 

  1. Change our relationship with rivers and floodplains 
    We are advocating for Te Mana o Te Wai-led restoration of these floodplains
     – including restoration of braided rivers and their ability to recharge our aquifers – and widening of the corridors between stop banks.  
  1. Rethink where and how we rebuild 
    We are advocating for the rebuild to think intergenerationally, ensuring community longevity and resilience under climate change. 
  1. Protect and restore wetland and indigenous forests 
    We seek that any spaces retreated from, as well as suitable public land and areas beyond, be available for wetland restoration and other nature-based solutions, i.e. biodiversity, reforestation, braided river corridors, and wetlands projects. 
  1. Create food resilience
    We are advocating for the development of a regional food resilience, security, and sovereignty strategy in authentic partnership with the community.   
  1. Responsibly manage the waste and sewerage issues 
    We are advocating for the remediation of the five new unconsented dumps in Hastings and remediation of (or offsetting of damage done by) the raw sewerage sent to sea in Napier to minimise damage done to our environment because of the cyclone. 
  1. Incentivise land use that transitions us to holistic farming that is good for the environment 
    We are advocating for the development of an incentive programme to support and uplift farmers who are recovering from the cyclone to move away from intensive agriculture and convert to low input and regenerative agricultural systems, or similar nature-based systems. 
  1. Meet Te Tiriti obligations and ensure mana motuhake of tangata whenua during the rebuild 
    We recommend that recovery agencies develop a mechanism for marae / hapū to interface directly with the Crown following the recovery. 
  1. Adequately fund community organisations, mana whenua, taiwhenua, and iwi for delivering solutions for the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. 
    We are advocating for an increase in funding for community organisations focussed on the environment and community resilience, such as Sustaining Hawke's Bay Trust, iwi, PSGEs (Post Settlement Governance Entities), and all taiwhenua to grow the work we do. 

The letter has been sent to the chair of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and mayors of the Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Wairoa District Council, and the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council. 

Link to the letter.

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