Gerry Te Kapa Coates
Rebuilding the Kāinga: Lessons from te ao hurihuri by Jade Kake (BWB Texts, 2019), 155 pp., $15; #NoFly: Walking the talk on climate change by Shaun Hendy (BWB Texts ,2019), 130 pp., $15
Jade Kake was raised in Australia by a Māori mother and a Dutch father, and after gaining a Bachelor of Architectural Design from Queensland she moved back to Aotearoa in 2012, where she made contact with her whanaunga Rau Hoskin, a leader in the field of Māori architecture. He encouraged her to do a master’s degree at Auckland University of Technology on papakāinga—a literal embodiment of earth (papa) and kainga (home)—as a model for regeneration of communities in Aotearoa.
Kake’s work on this area informs her book, in which she describes how kainga were once the centres of economic life. In our own times, however, Kake says, ‘many Māori experience poor housing outcomes … traced back to our shared history of displacement from our lands’ and the loss of the common ownership of land and property. The side-effects of the colonial settler-introduced elected government, which then made laws to suit Pākeha, were at least twofold: one was to deprive Māori of their land and the other was to deprive them of traditional building materials like raupō. A major tool in this cultural damage was the Native Lands Act 1862.
The state sponsored and encouraged the urban shift of Māori after World War II, a shift that was intended to alienate them from their homelands and provide for the perceived need of a labour force in the cities. Neoliberal policies in the 1980s, such as Rogernomics, enhanced this trajectory, so that by 1996 some 83 percent of Māori lived in urban areas, and culturally marginalising policies resulted in Māori home ownership dropping dramatically. Land and housing policy was governed by three key pieces of legislation: the Resource Management Act 1991, Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993 and the Local Government Act 2002. Additional constraints were Tribal Treaty Settlements, where iwi land—if any—was usually returned under general title; and the Building Act 2004, which governed all housing development on Māori land. It was a time when targeted home-ownership programmes could have made a real difference had they been initiated.
There were other barriers too. Kake sees access to finance as being ‘one of the most problematic’ that demands a ‘fundamental rethink’. Other longstanding constraints have also prevented Māori land from being developed and used. These include not having good information, a lack of coordination at government level, council policies, and poor district and rating plans; other issues like valuation methodology, zoning and of course financing have obstructed papakāinga initiatives. The Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood in Rānui, although not a Māori housing project, is cited as a model with potential to enhance communal aspects, food-growing and educational activities. There is a brief look at land tenure in other indigenous societies—in Australia, Canada and the US—from which new models suited to a Māori worldview might be developed. These could include rethinking ways of legally occupying Māori land in a cooperative way that allow equity build-up.
Kake argues that Māori housing needs to be reframed as a Treaty issue, since currently almost 12,000 Māori experience severe housing deprivation. She says, ‘clearly expectations set out in our Treaty agreement are not being met’, and cites the largest iwi Ngāpuhi—yet to negotiate a Treaty settlement—as still having numerous discussions on what tino rangatiratanga means at a hapū and whānau level. Acknowledging that tribal entities like Tainui and Ngāi Tahu have leveraged their settlements to substantial wealth, Kake also cites the fact that these bodies recognise housing as a significant issue which they are now addressing. This long-term view is a great strength for Māori organisations. She suggests that we need to reconceptualise a Māori economy ‘based on the kāinga as the primary economic unit’ operating as a business in the marketplace. Implementation of this might include customary exchanges regulated by koha, as well as commercial transactions within a closed market for barter or cash.
What would the future and political systems look like ‘if we were to take our Treaty partnership seriously’ and if we were to share power and authority, rather than assuming Māori tikanga was only relevant to a proportion of the total population? The future is already throwing us some major problems, such as global climate change and now a pandemic that is changing our modes of interaction. It will be a challenge to remain calm and focus on what has already worked—such as organising people and resources around hapū, whānau and kainga—and on what still may be the long-term solution.
Traditional methods will continue to experience new pressures from these changing global patterns. A major problem for kainga, for example, will be the need to relocate existing kainga and rūnanga away from coastal sites to retreat from future sea level rise.
This need for adaptation and flexibility leads me neatly on to another title from Bridget Williams Books: #NoFly: Walking the talk on climate change by Shaun Hendy.
Professor Hendy is an award-winning physicist who opted to avoid flying for a year to see if this might be a ‘new way to talk about climate change’. When Donald Trump became president of the US in 2016, Hendy says ,‘we had just lost another four years in the fight’ against environmental crisis. With Trump signalling he would pull out of the 2016 Paris Agreement and renege on promises of what the US would do about climate change, Hendy knew the world was in big trouble. This, coupled with Hendy’s calculation that he had flown 84,000 kilometres in 2017 despite it not even ‘being a particularly big year’ for him in terms of air travel, led to his commitment at the beginning of 2018 not to fly for a year. The book is the story of his experiences interwoven with facts about climate change. It reflects his desire to ‘do something—anything—in the face of growing climate anxiety’.
Hendy pledged only to break his no-fly promise in the case of a family emergency. For his first major family event, a wedding, he chose to drive 650 kilometres, while acknowledging that this would account for nearly ‘a fifth of my emissions’ or almost the same as flying. He says ‘air travel remains a privilege’. He points out that academics and scientists travel for many reasons, such as fieldwork and conferences, and rarely interact via video link. He also writes about the problems of using surface transport, such as unsuitable bus schedules necessitating overnight travel, and the absence of facilities like wi-fi that allow people to travel and work at the same time. He can now add Covid-19 as another barrier to any public transport, including aviation.
Hendy’s interest in climate change began well before 2018; in fact it began with his father’s subscription to Scientific American and a 1982 article by Roger Revelle called ‘Carbon Dioxide and World Climate’. Hendy’s chapter entitled ‘Carbon, Climate, and Us’ is a primer on climate change and includes eye-opening informaton about how long certain facts have been at hand. For example, he recounts that as early as 1890 the Swedish scientist Arrhenius calculated that the world was burning two billion tons of coal a year, creating seven billion tons of carbon dioxide. Arrhenius optimistically thought that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be a good insurance against another ice age.
Revelle in his 1982 article was using carbon dating to see how much of the carbon absorbed by trees came from burning fossil fuels. He and Hans Suess showed in 1957 that the sea was absorbing more of the excess carbon dioxide created by burning fossil fuels than plants and animals on land. However, the oceans were not such a good sink for carbon as first thought.
New Zealand’s own flirtation with fossil fuels began with coal, but this slowly changed with the advent of the huge Maui gas field. Revelle was now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and enabled the funding of a young scientist Charles Keeling to measure carbon dioxide levels high on Mauna Loa, a volcanic peak in Hawai`i. The published annual graphs of the rising percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere became the canary in the mine. In 1988 after a ‘run of anomalously hot global temperatures’, NASA scientist James Hansen announced to the US Senate that ‘the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now’. It was also in that year that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established, to provide a scientific view of climate change and its potential impacts.
Now, around 80 percent of countries see climate change as a real threat. Unfortunately there are still sceptics worldwide, and even in New Zealand some were funded by US think tanks to promote their sceptical views. An engineering blog site on the politics of doing nothing about climate change was attacked by several of these deniers similar to what was levelled at James Renwick and Tim Naish following their 2016 Royal Society nationwide climate lecture series. They even had an ethics complaint lodged against them. The history detailed in this chapter is one of the most revealing parts of the story about climate change politics, and deserves to be widely read.
In looking at the impact of #NoFly2018 Hendy says, ‘As scientists, particularly those of us with privilege and power, we must focus not just on what we say, but on the messages we send via our actions.’ The public, politicians and policy-makers need to see the urgency and act on it. He finishes by saying, ‘The future, I think, will be a very different place.’
As I write this, the landscape of the world is changing with the advent of a worldwide pandemic. There are good reasons for Māori to look at strengthening the drive to rebuild their kāinga and precious marae and rūnanga away from the coast where so many are located, taking account of predicted sea level rises caused by climate change. This may also be a message about community and how to rebuild it on more humane terms. Why do airlines respond to a Covid-19 threat by cutting flights, but not for reasons of global warming? The future will indeed be a very different place—it’s just a question of how far away that future is.
GERRY TE KAPA COATES (Ngāi Tahu, Waihao) was born in Oamaru. His reviews, poetry and fiction have appeared in the Huia Short Stories collections 4, 5 & 7, Landfall, Ora Nui 3 and Te Karaka, and he has published a wide variety of non-fiction espousing environmental issues among other themes. His poetry and fiction collection The View From Up There was published in 2011 by Steele Roberts. He works as a consultant and commissioner on EEZ, RMA and other similar hearings, and takes on a variety of Māori and technology advisory work.