Finding opportunity in adaptation

Our climate is changing. How we approach and adapt to the meet the unpredictable is a key focus for WSP.

What we know is that effective adaptation requires an understanding of how risks interact as a starting point. Decisions should be based on careful consideration of the cross-cutting nature of risks, and the trade-offs between the actions that we take.

Here we look at how climate change is reshaping the New Zealand summer, the tools we’re using to predict the impact it will have and the opportunities it presents – if we’re prepared to change our mindset.

Climate change and its impacts on the land, water and people are most often viewed through a scientific, Western worldview lens. WSP worked with the Tāmaki Makaurau Mana Whenua Kaitiaki Forum, to help them form a climate change position from a Te Ao Māori perspective.

The Mana Whenua Kaitiaki Forum is a collective of the 19 hapū and iwi authorities with indigenous connections to Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) land and sea. WSP’s work shaped the Forum’s strategic position and vision to
drive climate action. The resulting report informed the development of Auckland’s Climate Action Plan.

While climate change will affect everyone, many Māori communities and whānau are particularly vulnerable. Current challenges are likely to be exacerbated as climate change impacts intensify and disrupt the economy. Whānau who are already in a precarious financial position, have less access to resources to respond to rapidly worsening conditions. Hard won financial advances that some iwi, hapū and whānau have achieved over recent decades may be lost as the economy is pushed into rapid and significant change if precautionary action isn’t taken. Furthermore, coastal erosion and floods are causing irreparable damage to sacred sites, with many marae built on low-lying land. Māna whenua are considering how to protect or relocate marae, urupā, and wāhi tapu that will be exposed to flooding. Communities are also focussed on protecting the indigenous flora and fauna that will be threatened by a changing environment, particularly where change is so significant and rapid that species cannot adapt, or are overrun by invasive species.

Climate change is an indicator, highlighting how our past and current lifestyles are not in the best interest of our future. Tāmaki Makaurau has not been looking after its environment or the future of its people; it cannot cope with further development of the type of growth witnessed so far. The Forum has identified a need for kaitiakitanga and social outcomes to be a required condition in all investment decisions, to ensure that money is not available for unsustainable initiatives and activities.

WSP’s Rowan Dixon, Troy Brockbank and Michelle Chan worked on the project alongside Māna Whenua, which provided a unique experience to weave together Te Ao Māori and climate science. Brockbank says the project was a rangapū based on transparency, commitment, compassion and humility.

“The partnership helped the Forum develop their initial climate change position paper Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri. This was an important step in bringing together a Te Ao Māori perspective, integrated with an understanding of adaptation and mitigation”.

“Our people at WSP share close social ties that bind us to the places we work. This ensures our culture and values reflect and deliver for indigenous peoples and communities. Through our rangapū with the Mana Whenua Kaitiaki Forum, and embedding sustainable knowledge systems into our work, WSP is helping to pave the way towards a dynamic, future-focused Auckland.”

Troy Brockbank

Troy Brockbank (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) is Kaitohutohu Matua Taiao / Senior Environmental Consultant with WSP. He has real passion and ability for water sensitive design, in particular solutions to protect and restore the quality of waterways and the environment and considers himself an intermediary, having the advantage of seeing aspects from both an engineering and a Te Ao Māori world view.

Dr Rowan Dixon is Principal Professional Sustainability and Resilience at WSP. His experience spans international trade, environment and climate negotiations policy development and implementation, including carbon, biodiversity and community development and conservation projects, and the valuation of natural and social
capital offsets.

Michelle Chan is a Resource Management Planner at WSP. Her expertise includes urban design and planning, resource consents and social impact assessments.