Q & A with Kristie-Lee Thomas


Q. Tēnā koe Kristie-Lee. Can you tell us a bit about your iwi and hapū connections?

Ka mihi nui ki a koutou! He uri au nō Ngāti Mutunga ō Wharekauri, Te Atiawa, Ngāi Tohora, kōpūwai.

Q. Can you tell us what it was like growing up on Rēkohu-Wharekauri (Chatham Islands) and how that influenced your interest in natural hazard risk and resilience?

Growing up in a small, tight-knit, isolated Māori community, on a bit of rock in the middle of the roaring forties, inherently teaches you something about risk and resilience.

You’re taught, and grow, a deep appreciation for forces of nature and the diverse knowledge and skills of people within your community who helped raise you, and who make that place – set amidst tumultuous seas – home. I was also here in Ōtautahi when the earthquakes hit. Living through that mess and learning in Geology/Geography undergraduate courses that there is an opportunity to prevent that from happening again, sparked my interest in disaster risk reduction studies.

Q. You completed a Master’s in Disaster Risk & Resilience at the University of Canterbury. What was the topic for your Master’s research?

My MSc research was undertaking work for home – we wanted to know what might happen in a future tsunami on the Chathams and what resources we would need on-island to cope. Especially if we were on our own for a while. We used community-based participatory and kaupapa Māori methodologies to undertake a risk assessment built from mātauranga, local knowledge and risk science. The learnings were shared through community events abiding by local tikanga and the team continues to support local initiatives.

Q. Congratulations on your appointment to Co-leader of our Whanake te Kura I Tawhiti Nui programme. What does this opportunity mean for you?

Kōrero with Kristie-Lee’s old school as part of a tsunami and resilience activity day – leveraging of her masters mahi, Rēkohu, Wharekauri 2021.

Dee Sciascia, Wendy Saunders and the whānau of rangatira have forged a path and are undertaking critical mahi to unfurl this space with their respective iwi/hapu research partners. It’s an honour to be able to support the transformative research of the Whanake Te Kura whānau.

For me, it’s an opportunity to contribute to an emerging space where we are actively navigating the interface between Mātauranga and DRR with our research partners (our iwi/hapu and whānau we bring with us) and their aspirations at heart. It is also an opportunity to be a good connector with the different hats I wear, different research whānau that I’m a part of, and between the two worlds my research spans – kaupapa Māori research and disaster risk science.

As an early career researcher, I also feel it’s an opportunity to help bring our voices to the table. To carve out space for our dreams and imaginations for the future of this field and to help create more visibility to encourage rangatahi to consider a career and thrive in this space.

Q. You’re also studying towards your PhD right now, can you tell us about that?

Āe! My PhD research will help explore the interface of mātauranga and disaster risk science working within the He Mounga Puia, Puea Rū, Puea Kōrero Transitioning Taranaki to a Volcanic Future programme, supported by a UC Matariki scholarship and Te Toi Whakaruruhau o Aotearoa. I am working with my supervision whānau and connecting with my Taranaki whānaunga to develop research pātai around future proofing for potential eruptions and aligning with key community priorities around healing and rangatiratanga.  

My ancestors were navigators, researchers and served their communities. I’m here to continue their kaupapa.

Q. What are your future research aspirations?

To help transform disaster risk research and the way we work to better serve our Māori communities.

Long Distance Nationals wāhine waka ama race, Waitohi – Te Waka o Aoraki 2021. Credit: Garrick Cameron

Q. What do you like to do outside work?

Outside of work I’m generally…outside! Doing something active, learning something new, hanging with whānau and friends. I love being out on the moana, in the ngahere and maunga – I’m big into waka ama, snowboarding, tramping and continuing with my reo journey.  



Impact case study:
Science for resilience policy and practice


September 2021

The 2020-21 year has seen significant developments in the policy frameworks covering climate adaptation and managed retreat.

In 2019-20 we reported on the publication of the GNS Science report Reducing risk through the management of existing uses: tensions under the RMA by Emily Grace, Ben France-Hudson and Margaret Kilvington, primarily funded under our Phase 1 ‘Living at the Edge’ programme. The report filled an important research gap by addressing how the RMA can be used to deal with people’s existing use ‘rights’ when planning and carrying out risk reduction activities. It also identified where the RMA falls short, and its recommendations included legislative change to enable at-risk communities to retreat from risk in a timely way.  

In June 2020, some of the report’s key recommendations were picked up in New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, the report of the Resource Management Review Panel. In February 2021, the Government announced it would repeal the RMA and enact new legislation based on the recommendations of the Panel. The three proposed acts include a Climate Adaptation Act to address the complex issues associated with managed retreat.

Attention now turns to what the legislation should look like. In January 2021 Dr Christina Hanna and Prof Iain White of the University of Waikato and our ‘De-risking Resilience’ workstream published timely research on managed retreat governance, Managed retreats by whom and how? Identifying and delineating governance modalities. The authors describe the spectrum of governance approaches to managed retreat, from state-led and funded retreat at one end, through to autonomous, unmanaged retreat left to the private sector and local communities. The researchers recommend co-operative managed retreat strategies in which “people and communities are embedded in the retreat strategy design, decision-making and delivery.” The researchers conclude that a co-operative approach is most likely to “avoid or reduce risks in ways that seek to share power and promote justice and equity.” 

A pioneering example of collaborative community engagement is the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy 2120 in Hawke’s Bay, which also trialled Dynamic Adaptive Pathways Planning (DAPP) to assess options and pathways with researchers from Phase 1 of the Resilience Challenge. DAPP underpins the research in our Phase 2 ‘Enabling Coastal Adaptation’ workstream, led by Dr Judy Lawrence of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. This mahi builds on learnings from the implementation of the Hawkes’s Bay DAPP trial.

Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay. Credit: Margaret Low, GNS Science.

Dr Lawrence and her team are investigating how DAPP can be implemented under current legislation, to avoid further lock-in of developments at risk of sea-level rise before new legislation is in place. This also includes targeted guidance on how to use economic assessment tools that support the long-term view required by the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, and a monitoring framework and tools to alert decision makers to impending risks using signals and triggers.

The RNC directorate has been instrumental in connecting researchers with government agencies progressing work on natural hazard adaptation. Researchers from our Resilience in Practice Programme have been part of this dialogue, which enables new knowledge and analysis on this complex topic to be available to officials scoping new legislation. Planning is underway for a series of co-developed ‘science to policy’ workshops.

Researchers are also engaging with other central government agencies on coastal adaptation. Dr Judy Lawrence and Dr Rob Bell of Bell Adapt have shared frameworks and concepts relating to adaptation planning under uncertainty, as external inputs to the Climate Change Adaptation Agenda project that is being integrated throughout all sections of Waka Kotahi NZTA. Adaptation of infrastructure including roading is a key part of our coastal adaptation mahi in Phase 2.

In our Phase 1 Mātauranga Maōri programme, Assoc Prof Christine Kenney of Massey University led our ‘Whakaoranga Marae’ project which developed a framework for developing natural hazard resilience for marae communities. Whakaoranga refers to the rescue, recovery and restoration of sustainable wellbeing, achieved through Māori values, knowledge and tikanga. The National Disaster Resilience Strategy incorporates the process of whakaoranga as part of its national objectives. Auckland Council has been adapting and extending the framework and rolling it out to all the marae in the greater Auckland area. The process includes:  

  • Raising awareness of the range of hazards that marae may be exposed to and helping identify possible impacts
  • Sharing Auckland Emergency Management kaupapa on what is required to build disaster resilience
  • Mapping out the strengths and assets of marae
  • Supporting marae to develop a plan for additional work required to build disaster resilience.

This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2020-21 annual reporting. 


Impact case study:
Partnership as the pathway to impact


September 2021

We rely on collaborations with our partners and stakeholders in order to achieve our mission, including Challenge parties, other NSCs and aligned research organisations, iwi and hapū, government agencies, and councils.

Growing Kai Under Increasing Dry was a collaboration between RNC, Deep South and Our Land & Water NSCs to develop a ‘rolling symposium’ on drought and the primary sector. The series of three webinars and an in-person symposium focused on how the primary sector can build resilience to increasingly frequent and severe drought. We used the webinars to share NSC research, while the symposium allowed wide-ranging stakeholder discussions, particularly in relation to policy development by central government. A summary report is close to completion, which identifies responsibilities of the relevant sectors, and next steps.


Delegates at our Growing Kai under Increasing Dry symposium at Te Papa. Photo copyright Mark Coote.

We received really positive feedback from key stakeholders, particularly on way they were able to access expertise from the NSCs through a ‘single front door’.

RNC is part of a collaborative project supporting the deployment of seismometers in schools around the motu, alongside Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, University of Canterbury, GNS Science, ECLIPSE, QuakeCoRE, and East Coast LAB. The project aims to increase knowledge about earthquakes, tsunami and protective behaviours, encourage interest in the role of science in understanding the environment, and show pathways to future education and careers.

Under Phase 1, we co-funded a research project in partnership with QuakeCoRE to develop Māori-centred seismic hazard education activities for kura. Led by Lucy Kaiser (GNS Science, Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research) the activities are designed to encourage tuākana-tēina mentorship and increase the knowledge and preparedness of tamariki in the Hawke’s Bay and Wellington regions. Lucy was awarded the GNS Science Early Career Researcher Award at the 2020 Science NZ Awards in recognition of this mahi.

The Alpine Fault earthquake preparedness and response planning programme AF8 is a cross-boundary organisation funded by six South Island CDEM groups, QuakeCoRE and EQC, with science support from RNC’s Rural programme.

In autumn 2021 the team rolled out the AF8 Roadshow, sharing science with local communities from Invercargill to Golden Bay. Over 11 weeks, scientists including our research leaders Assoc Prof Caroline Orchiston, Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon, and Prof Tom Wilson visited 16 schools and held 16 public science talks. The events attracted a total audience of approximately 3,000 people. The events sparked new conversations about what can be done to boost local earthquake resilience, and the team received plenty of positive feedback from the public. 

The RNC Volcano programme is deepening existing partnerships and building new relationships in Taranaki and the Central North Island. Programme co-leader Prof Jon Procter is the new Chair of the Taranaki Seismic and Volcano Advisory Group (TSVAG) and is working closely with GeoNet to improve the volcanic monitoring network for Taranaki maunga. TSVAG is a critically important group for the provision of volcano science advice for Taranaki. RNC researchers are constantly transferring new methods and models into practice in partnership with Taranaki stakeholders as evidenced by two hazard assessments supplied to the Department of Conservation.[1] [2] The team is also working closely with Taranaki CDEM staff on volcano crisis contingency planning and risk communication. In particular, researchers have supplied the CDEM group with data and hazard GIS layers to develop a series of public hazard maps and infographics.

Jon Procter also leads a project in our Whanake Te Kura i Tawhiti Nui programme, working with Ngāti Rangi to identify wai (waters) associated with Matua te Mana (Maunga Ruapehu). Through wānanga, researchers and mana whenua aim to share knowledge about volcanic waters and the mauri, wairua and life-supporting capacity of these features.

In December 2020 researchers took part in a hīkoi with Ngāti Rangi to observe their environmental and volcano monitoring programme. At that time Matua te Mana was in a period of heightened unrest. Iwi-led environmental monitoring based on traditional sites picked up the changes in the Crater Lake that GNS Science had also detected, indicating an eruption. The project seeks to develop a joint mātauranga Māori / science-based water-monitoring framework of indicators that relate to volcanic processes and changing behaviours for Matua te Mana.


[1] Mead, S., Procter, J., Bebbington, M., 2020: Volcanic hazards to Taranaki Crossing from Taranaki and Fanthams Peak. Commissioned by the Department of Conservation. Volcanic Risk Solutions, Massey University, 46 p. 


[2] Procter, J.N., Bebbington, M., Mead, S., 2018: Pouakai Crossing volcanic hazard assessment. A report commissioned by the Department of Conservation. Volcanic Risk Solutions, Massey University, 32 p.

This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2020-21 annual reporting. 

How iwi and hapū management plans can enhance the planning process

By Gavin McCleave, science communications intern

Research by Dr Wendy Saunders and Lucy Kaiser explores how iwi and hapū in the Bay of Plenty prepare and use iwi and hapū management plans (IHMPs), and how well councils and third parties use the IHMPs during planning processes. Their research looked at the extent to which natural hazards and climate change are considered during IHMP preparation. They provide recommendations on how to ensure IHMPs are accurately representative of iwi and hapū members views, how iwi and hapū relationships with councils can be enhanced by IHMPs, and how IHMPs can be used when making planning decisions.

IHMPs are a readily accessible way for council decision-makers, planners and staff to learn the planning priorities and aspirations of local iwi and hapū.

The research found that iwi and hapū highly valued their IHMPs as a description of development priorities and objectives that their members have agreed. The agreed mātauranga embedded in IHMPs helps steer decision making by iwi and hapū leadership and members. Iwi and hapū also see IHMPs as an essential tool to influence and engage with local government decision making.

While some of the councils contacted by the researchers are very proactive in using IHMPs, for others, the usage or perceived value of IHMPs could be increased. The researchers identify ways that councils can help ensure that their decision-makers and staff consult IHMPs before making planning decisions or advising the public on development consents. The researchers also provide recommendations on how councils can help iwi and hapū develop robust, representative IHMPs by, for example, providing funding support or technical expertise and sharing all their available information on relevant natural hazards and climate change issues.

As a result of these recommendations, researchers, planners, and many central government agencies are more aware of IHMPs, and the important role they play. This has been reflected in the inclusion of them in the many new strategies and policies, such as Arotakenga Huringa Āhuarangi – A Framework for the National Climate Change Risk Assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand.




Student profile: Ngawaiata Turnbull


Maungapōhatu – A history of resilience, Rua Kēnana and Iharaira



Photo – Ngawaiata Turnbull, First Class Honours & Te Reo Maori Thesis Scholarship Award. Master of Indigenous Studies, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi Special Awards Ceremony, Mātaatua Marae, Te Mānuka Tūtahi. Whakatane, 2015.

Ka moe, ka moe a Te Maunga rāua ko Hinepūkohurangi ka puta ko Ngā Tamariki o te Kohu. Ko Ngawaiata Turnbull taku īngoa he uri whakaheke nō roto i ngā tātai, tāheke kōrero ō Iharaira-Tamakaimoana, ō Ngāti Tāwhaki ki Te Urewera, o Te Whānau Pani ki Ruātoki. Ko Maungapōhatu te maunga ko Tamakaimoana, ko Ngāi Tūhoe te iwi. I tipu ake ahau he mokopuna whāngai. He mea poipoi, murimuri aroha ma ōku kuia, koroua o Tamakaimoana i te take o Maungapōhatu. I roto i tēnei whakapakeketanga ōku ka tipu ake ahau ki roto te reo me ngā tikanga o Iharaira o te poropiti a Rua Kēnana. Ē mau ngākau, wairua, hinengaro tonu nei ki ngā hapū, marae kāinga, kuia, koroua o Ngā Toenga o ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu.


My project


My name is Ngawaiata Turnbull. I am a mother of 3. I have been teaching for over 20 years; across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. I hold a double degree in Education and Māori Studies as well as a Masters with First Class Honours in Indigenous Studies from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.  In 2019 I was awarded a Teach NZ scholarship to allow foundational, concentrated research and writing on my doctoral studies focused on resilience. I am grateful to Te Wharekura o Huiarau Board of Trustees for their support of me and this kaupapa. I acknowledge Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the valuable guidance of Professor Taiarahia Black. I’m very proud to be the recipient of the Ē au ai te reo, 3 year doctorate scholarship and acknowledge the Whanake Te Kura ki Tawhiti Nui programme of the Resilience National Science Challenge.

From the age of nine months I was raised in Ruatāhuna and Maungapōhatu by my kuia and koroua who ensured an environment infused in the philosophy, cosmology, language and practices of Iharaira-Tamakaimoana. Some years ago a quote attributed to my grandfather was brought to my attention. This is the quote:

“Kua kitea e te ao kāore he hara o Rua, o ngā tāngata o Maungapōhatu. I whiua ai te ringa kaha o te ture ki a rātau. Kotahi noa te hara, ko tērā o te kāwanatanga nāna nei i whakarere i te toto ki Maungapōhatu. Ahakoa rā, kāre anō te kāwanatanga i haramai ki te horoi i tōna hara ki a Maungapōhatu. Kai reira tonu te riko o te toto. Ka hoatu au i tēnei kawenga mā koutou, mā ngā tamariki e whakatutuki kia pai ai taku moe.”[1]


Ngawaiata overlooking the sacred mountain from near the location of one of Rua Kēnana’s earliest homes, Tukutoromiro. In the middle distance can be seen Hiruharama Hou, one of Rua’s later homes. Maungapōhatu 2019.

Essentially this statement awoke a sadness inside me for the seen and unseen impacts suffered by my Koro and successive generations of Iharaira-Maungapōhatu as a result of the unjust invasion of Maungapōhatu which took place in April 1916. My doctorate research aspires to contribute in a meaningful way, to the continued resilience of Iharaira for future generations. Written in te reo, my doctorate thesis will aim to strengthen, restore, and reinstate the essence, identity, cohesiveness, cadence of heritage reo narratives of Iharaira-Tamakaimoana of Maungapōhatu. The key kaikōrero and holders of this knowledge are generally aged in their 60s to 80s therefore there is a sense of urgency to compile these oral and written literatures.


Te kaupapa ake

A strong sense of connection and history is the source and inspiration of my research around the teachings of the 20th century Tūhoe visionary leader Rua Kēnana Hepetipa and the Iharaia faith established by him at Maungapōhatu. As part of the momentum of the Royal Assent of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Act achieved on 21st December 2019, my doctoral thesis seeks to recover and expand upon the knowledge, wisdom and examples of resilience located with the Iharaira experience over time. The lived and living narratives of Iharaira are essential to establish and grow the canons of reo academic knowledge; wealth-creation to build resilient and sustainable reo communities for Iharaira-Tamakaimoana present and future generations.  Inculcated in this thesis will be theological scriptural verse, sung and spoken chants and an anthology of poetic verse to support marae wānanga, whaikōrero (oratory) and karanga (ceremonial calls) of Maungapōhatu and Ruatāhuna.


Ki hea ake

“Kāore te whakamā i ahau” resource publication in honour of the exodus of Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me Nga Uri o Maungapōhatu, who travelled to Parliament over 3 days to witness the second and third readings of the Rua Kēnana Statutory Pardon Bill, 18th December 2019.

Alongside kuia, koroua of Iharaira I compiled a trilogy of waiata mōteatea in 2019 titled “Kāore te whakamā i ahau.” This research publication was initiated to commemorate the final reading of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill achieved 18th December 2019. This literature resource contributes to the resilience of today’s diverse Iharaira whānau, especially so over the course of 3 days, where Iharaira traversed to Parliament as witness to the final reading of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill. The title, “Kāore te whakamā i ahau” is taken from one of the two compositions by Rua Kēnana which are included in the publication. Significantly, this particular mōteatea has been written into the legislation of the Bill. Acknowledgements to Te Puni Kōkiri, Ngā Toenga o Nga Tamariki a Iharaira me Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu Trust and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi for support to publish this resource.

On Saturday the 3rd of April 2021 (Easter weekend), Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki o Iharaira me Nga Uri o Maungapōhatu, together with Tamakaimoana hapū and Tuapou Marae Committee will host a foundational Rua Kēnana Symposium reflecting on the life and legacy of this tīpuna. This date coincides with the 105 year anniversary of the unjust invasion and occupation of Maungapohatu 2nd-5th April 1916.

The symposium will celebrate three millennium epoch: (1) The signing of the Rua Kenana Pardon Act, 12 September, 18 December 2019. (2) The Royal Assent of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Act signed at Maungapōhatu by the Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy, witnessed by Kīngi Tūheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, 21 December 2019 (3) Present a landmark retrospective exhibition of Rua Kēnana Taonga in Te Ao Hou whare tīpuna, Tuapou marae in collaboration with Whakatāne museum Mark Sykes, Tapara Reid-Hiakita and Dr Arapata Hakiwai of Te Papa Tongarewa.


Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand and the Whakatane District Museum meet with Tuapou Marae in preparations for the inaugural Rua Kēnana Symposium. January 2021, Matahī. (Ngawaiata and her daughter, Owhakaori, seated far right).

I wish to highlight the efforts of Toni Boynton, Secretary of Tuapou Marae Committee and direct descendant of Rua Kēnana Hepetipa and Pinepine Te Rika. Toni and her team presented a petition to Parliament in 2020 to abolish the discriminatory legislation around the establishment of Māori Wards. Currently in the Māori Select Committee phase of the legislature process, this Bill echoes strongly the legacy, vision and resilience of Rua Kēnana, Iharaira – “Kotahi te ture mo nga iwi e rua, Maungapōhatu”.   






[1] Whārangi tuarua o te pukapuka a NgāToenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira Charitable Trust, “A Statutory Pardon for the 1916 Invasion of Maungapohatu” contained in the Official Statutory Pardon Publication June 2017 Mataatua Marae, Rotorua


Impact case study:

Science for resilience policy and practice


How did Resilience Challenge research have an impact in 2019-2020?


In 2019-20 we saw several examples of direct application of Resilience to Nature’s Challenges (RNC) research findings into policy and practice.

Paekakariki near Wellington. Credit: Margaret Low, GNS Science

The GNS Science report Reducing risk through the management of existing uses: tensions under the RMA  by Emily Grace, Ben France-Hudson and Margaret Kilvington, was primarily funded by our Phase 1 contestable fund. The report looks at how the RMA can be used to reduce the risk to existing communities from natural hazards and climate change, including enabling the movement of communities from at-risk areas. The report filled an important research gap, because addressing risk to established communities means addressing people’s existing use ‘rights’ – rights that are so entrenched in planning practice that modifications, even to reduce risk to lives and property, face significant challenges. A recent example of this is Matatā in the Bay of Plenty, where there has been a protracted effort by Whakatāne District Council to manage retreat from the Awatairariki fanhead, the location of a devastating debris flow in 2005. 

The report, which took an interdisciplinary approach by teaming up a planner, a lawyer, and a social scientist, was awarded the New Zealand Planning Institute’s John Mawson Award of Merit for 2020. The Award is made in recognition of a meritorious individual or one-off contribution to the theory or practice of planning. It is also stimulating strong interest from councils and central government, and in June 2020 some of its key recommendations were picked up in New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, the report of the Resource Management Review Panel.

As part of our Coastal programme, Masters student Rick Kool (supervised by Dr Judy Lawrence and Dr Rob Bell) used the Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathway (DAPP) approach trialled in Phase 1.  Rick applied adaptive pathways  to understand how a retreat of ‘two waters’ might be managed in Petone, Lower Hutt where wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is at risk from sea-level rise and increased frequency of heavy rainfall events.

The research used DAPP to frame retreat over different sea-level rise increments. The research conceptualised how this could be managed spatially across the study area, and a workshop with experts helped identify impact thresholds and consider possible adaptation options. Water sensitive urban design options were integrated into adaptation portfolios to extend retreat thresholds and create amenity for the community by repurposing the area after retreat is initiated.  


Schematic, Petone DAPP case study. Note: MR is managed retreat, AT = adaptation threshold, SLR = sea-level rise. Source: Kool, R.; Lawrence, J.; Drews, M.; Bell, R. Preparing for Sea-Level Rise through Adaptive Managed Retreat of a New Zealand Stormwater and Wastewater Network. Infrastructures 2020, 5, 92.

This scenario-based, spatially phased approach to two waters infrastructure retreat resulted in a research methodology and framework which are available for use in coastal communities around the country. 

 A project focusing on the role of Iwi and Hapū Management Plans (IHMPs) in reducing natural hazard and climate change risk to Māori communities was funded by our Phase 1 Governance and Mātauranga Māori programmes, led by Māori researchers Dr Wendy Saunders and Lucy Kaiser.

IHMPs are legislative documents under the RMA, and can play a key role in contributing to natural hazard management. They are prepared by an iwi, iwi authority, runanga or hapū as an expression of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga of local natural resources. They are designed to be strategic documents which outline priorities for iwi and hapū and provide cultural context and preferred processes of engagement for local authorities.

Research published by Dr Wendy Saunders and Lucy Kaiser in August 2019 and presented to the NZPI 2019 conference explores the role of IHMPs in natural hazard risk management in the Bay of Plenty. The researchers made a number of recommendations, including that councils and national agencies better embed IHMPs in their processes. As a result, researchers, planners, and many central government agencies are more aware of the plans, and the important role they play. This has been reflected in the inclusion of them in the many new strategies and policies, such as Arotakenga Huringa Āhuarangi – A Framework for the National Climate Change Risk Assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand.

In these examples, we can see RNC research and recommendations being delivered at the right time, in the right form, to the right stakeholders, and being taken up in policy and practice developments that improve local and national resilience to natural hazard risks.


This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2019-2020 annual reporting. 



Student profile: Lucy Kaiser



Investigating tangata whenua views
and responses to climate change




Lucy at Rangiauria (Pitt Island), Wharekauri (Chatham Islands)

Ko Tākitimu te māunga

Ko Aparima te awa

Ko Te Ara a Kiwa te moana

Ko Ngāi Tahu te iwi

Ko Takutai o te tītī te marae

No Ōtautahi ahau

Ko Lucy Kaiser ahau


I am currently in my first year of my PhD in Emergency Management at Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research. While I grew up in Ōtautahi (Christchurch), I whakapapa to the Ōraka-Aparima area of Murihiku (Southland). In the 1930s, my great-great-uncle Eruera Poko Cameron collected the local stories and correct kupu for important places in the rohe from kaumātua, and my great-grandmother’s whānaunga Ulva Belsham’s research on waiata and whakapapa is a precious resource on Kai Tahu Māori language in the south. I like to think that the same passion for the stories and history of our people and for the whenua and moana runs through my whakapapa to me.

My background is in sociology and indigenous disaster management. I conducted my BA in sociology at the University of Otago and with the support of a Fulbright Award I completed a Masters in Sociology of Disasters at Colorado State University researching tribal disaster mitigation plans in the United States. This was an amazing opportunity to see some of the fantastic work that was been done by indigenous tribes internationally in the disaster management space.

Receiving a PhD scholarship from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Mātauranga Māori programme and support from the EQC Mātauranga Māori Disaster Risk Reduction Research Centre has allowed me the opportunity to further explore my interest in indigenous disaster management, particularly regarding climate change, from a Te Ao Māori perspective.


Lucy at Teotihuacan, Mexico

My project

Climate change-related events such as sea level rise, ex-tropical cyclones, and severe storms (for example, the February 2020 Southland floods) have added to the complex environment in the Murihiku region, and adversely impacted tangata whenua, physically, culturally, economically and spiritually. Iwi, hapū and marae frameworks such as Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku’s Te Tangi a Tauira environmental management plan (2008) and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu’s ‘He Rautaki Mō Te Huringa o te Āhuarangi’ climate change strategy (2018) take into account these climate change-related impacts and provide mechanisms for preparing, mitigating and responding to them.

This research will draw from kaupapa Māori methodologies and western European science to explore climate change issues that are impacting tangata whenua as well as the effectiveness and relationships between mātauranga Māori, iwi/rūnanga management plans and national and regional planning strategies/practices for mitigating climate changes in Aotearoa.


Apirama in Murihiku (Southland)

Next steps

My next steps will be connecting kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with whānau down south to share information and collaboratively develop an appropriate research plan addressing the community’s aspirations and interests in relation to climate change and disaster management and planning.  There is a wealth of knowledge held by our kaumātua who have observed and responded to the impacts of climate change on our coastal marae and wāhi tapu sites and to taonga species such as tītī (mutton birds) that I would be privileged to learn from. I have been very grateful of the generosity and manaaki that I have received in the initial stages of this work and it is my hope to deliver research that will be meaningful for the Murihiku community’s climate change adaptation work in the future.



Q & A with Dr Acushla Dee Sciascia



Q. Tēnā koe Dee. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your iwi affiliations?

He uri ahau nō ngā kāwai whakapapa o Ngāruahine Rangi, Ngāti Ruanui and Te Atiawa.

Q. How did you get into social science research? Did you always want to be a researcher?

My ancestors are prolific researchers, so it was very natural for me to follow in their footsteps and continue the art of inquiry in the hope to seek out answers and revelations. I’ve always been interested in culture and people and with these two things come the responsibility to deepen and broaden one’s knowledge and understanding in these spaces to bring about change and transformation.

Q. What was your PhD on, and what were your major findings?

I wrote my PhD about Facebook and the rise of technological online and social media platforms pervading Māori society and culture. The research showed that, like our tūpuna, Māori have quickly adopted and adapted to the increase of social media use for a range of reasons. We use social media for whanaungatanga (to build and maintain relationships), for identity construction and (re)connection to culture, language and practices and we more recently are practicing our culture in online social spaces such as tangihanga (funerals). While all of these things we are doing are helping us to connect (on varying levels), the importance of being physically present and face to face represents challenges for further disconnecting our people. 

Q. We recently marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In your opinion what do we need to do to enable more young wāhine Māori to take up science and research?

We need more Wāhine Māori leadership roles. There is a prevalence of mostly Pākehā men who take up these spaces. Lets change this!

Q. You’re co-leading the Mātauranga Māori theme for Phase 2 of the Challenge. What drew you to working on the Challenge?

Mātauranga Māori is one of the corner stones of Te Ao Māori; everything we do, who we are, where we come from are told in the narratives, histories and oral traditions of our mātauranga. To lift this knowledge system in the field of western sciences is to ensure that our knowledges are given the credibility and mana they deserve. This is what attracted me to the role – the opportunity to play a part in this shift.

Q. What can western natural hazard research gain from incorporating Māori values, tikanga and knowledge?

If we were to return to indigenous ways of knowing and being, we would find that solutions to a lot of environmental issues could be approached though an indigenous lens. The same is to be said for natural hazard research – through a kaupapa Māori approach, we can understand resilience to be not only about surviving but thriving in our diverse contexts and environments. 

Q. Through this programme, what resilience tools and innovations do you hope to be able to deliver for iwi, hapū and whānau?

My aspirations for our Māori communities is that we think differently and innovatively about how resilience to natural hazards – what opportunities can we take from better understanding our natural environment that speaks to our unique Māori ways of knowing and being. One area in particular I’m excited about is how we translate knowledges to speak most effectively to a diverse range of audiences whose lives are most affected by natural hazards (e.g., coastal Māori communities, marae, hapū and iwi). We need to think differently about how our research translates to a language and medium that speaks to the hearts and minds of these communities.

Q. You were recently part of the Government’s Climate Change Risk Assessment Panel. How was that experience?

It was a challenging space given that the expectation when being one of two Māori on a panel of 10 is that you represent all Māori aspirations and this simply is not the case. Despite this pressure, myself and fellow colleague Shaun Awatere were able to imbue a strong whakaaro Māori into the framework from the very outset. We worked extremely well with other panelists and despite the parameters of time and urgency, I am proud of what we achieved for the framework.

Q. What are your future aspirations?

To see impactful shifts where Mātauranga Māori and western sciences not only complement each other, but are co-dependant. 


Student profile: Hauiti Hakopa



He reo kōrero te pūrākau ki a Ngāti Tuwharetoa


Ko te tuhinga kairangi a Hauiti Hākopa he waihanga i te hohonu, i te ātaahua, i te māramatanga o te hono tātai o te pūrākau hāngai pū ki te whakapūmautanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa.  Ka tātaritia, wetewetehia ngā hekenga mātauranga hohonu, uarā, tātai whakawhiti kōrero kai roto ake anō i ēnei kōrero pūrākau a Ngāti Tūwharetoa.  Ko aua hekenga kōrero whakaarorangi nei i ahu mai i te karamata, manawapū o ngā papa tipu whenua reo kōrero. Kai konei ka ora mai te mauri, te tuakiri, te tiketike tūahu whakapiringa, whakahāngai kōrero ki roto i tēnei tuhinga kairangi. Ko ngā pātaka, kete kōrero o tēnei tuhinga kairangi ka tūhono e puaki mai ai te tiketike o te reo kōrero ā-waha, ā-hinengaro, ā-ngākau whakawhiti whakaaro.  I konei ka whakaaria anō ētahi atu kōrero mai i ngā pukapuka kua tāia, ā, i ngā pukapuka kāre anō kia tāia kia au ai te rongo o te hohonu o te mātauranga haere ake nei ngā tau, hāngai ki te reo kōrero o te whenua matatū tonu.

Kai roto i ngā kōrero pūrākau a Ngāti Tūwharetoa te hohonu, taketake o ngā kōrero tīpuna hai āwhina i a tātau ki te whakatipu i ngā hohonu mātauranga kaiārahi, tūhonotanga mo nga tau kai mua i a tātau e puare ai te tatau hou ki ngā hangarau kawe i te reo ipurangi hononga ki ngā hangarau whakaora, whakatinana kōrero, whāingai i aua kōrero whakaheke ki ngā whakatipuranga hou o ngā tau tuangahuru haere ake nei ngā tau.   



Pūrākau and the sacred geographies of belonging



A bit about me 


Tēnā tatou. Ko taku taumata ko runga ko Tongariro. Mārama te titiro ki te ao o tōku tipuna a Tūwharetoa. Ko au tēnei e mihi ake rā ki te nui, me te rahi o Aotearoa me te Waipounamu.

I derive my whakapapa connections to the Taupō region from my eponymous ancestor Tūwharetoa and his sons. I was born and bred in the southern region of Taupō, in Tokaanu. My family were domiciled in Taupō throughout my school years until I left for University.


Taupō-nui-a-Tia, Lake Taupo. Photo © GNS Science


I graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Surveying, a Postgraduate Diploma in Science, a Master’s in Science and finally a Doctorate in Spatial Information Technology and its’ application to mōteatea. My abiding interest is in land and whakapapa thereof, cartography and the mapping of Māori connection and relationship to their ancestral landscapes.


My project


My 2019 doctorate from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi was supported by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges. It is primarily focused on pūrākau and how Māori connect to their ancestral landscapes, what I termed as the sacred geographies of belonging. Moreover, it argues that identity, located in the ethos of tangata whenua, is the basis for resilience for Māori. Resilience for Māori had been described in terms of the relentless motion of the tide. The metaphor of the tōrea pango (black oyster-catcher) was used to describe the patience necessary to hold a steady course. It was necessary to converge three threads: one, identity located in sacred places; two, the tangata whenua ethos; and three, resilience located in identity.

The primary aim of this research was to define/find/illustrate the explicit link between identity and ancestral landscapes and vice-versa; but more than that, it was to discover how each of these concepts interact and influence the other.


There were three primary objectives:

  1. To examine the esoteric knowledge and wisdom of Ngāti Tūwharetoa pūrākau and its’ impact and influence on shaping how we think about cultural identity embedded in ancestral landscapes.
  2. To critically examine the tangata whenua ethos and the connection between identity, resilience and its’ relevance for Māori in the digital era.
  3. To critically examine converging modern technology with pūrākau as a platform for disseminating cultural content

The research questions were focused on the following:

  1. What are the critical elements of cultural identity layered within Ngāti Tūwharetoa pūrākau that provide guidance for connecting with the tangata whenua ethos?
  2. What is the value of the tangata whenua ethos today in the digital era?
  3. How can modern technology provide a gateway for Māori to develop a relationship with ancestral landscapes?


The research revealed the following insights:

One, it provides evidence that Mātauranga Māori is of the highest form of academic scholarship;

Two, it unpacks the vitality, essence and meaning of pūrākau and positions it as a knowledge system within the traditional sense of Mātauranga;

Three, it positions pūrākau as an appropriate traditional framework for examining tribal cultural identity located in sacred sites steeped in whakapapa;

Four, it unravels the key messages contained in Tūwharetoa pūrākau, the intimate link to ancestors found therein and provides a way for tangata whenua to develop resilience;

Five, it advances the concept that sacred geographies (significant sites that contain the vitality of ancestral footprints) are a reservoir of accumulated ancestral strength essential for maintaining the vitality and ethos of tangata whenua;

Six, it outlines a process for Māori who live remotely from their homelands around the world to develop a relationship with their sacred ancestral geographies using pūrākau.


Finally, I used the whakatauākī from one ancestor Tamamutu to frame the approach to the research. The compelling parts of the whakatauākī refers to: kia ata whakatere I te waka nei – to take care when making decisions, and “ka whakahoki atu ki te kapua whakapipi”, the clouds the travel the southern parts of Lake Taupō and for Tūwharetoa to always remember that our reservoir of strength resides in the Taupō ancestral landscapes.


Next steps


I am currently exploring a number of avenues to extend the doctoral research, one is to pursue post-doctoral research within the Resilience Challenge theme.

Reclaiming Māori oral histories to understand tsunami hazard and history



Kei roto i ngā kōrero tuku iho ā-waha a te Māori e takoto ana ētahi kōrero nunui mo ngā ākitanga mai o ngā ngaru taupoki nunui o Aotearoa. I heke mai ēnei kōrero i ngā wāhi katoa ā-kōrero, ā-pakeke whakakitenga, e whakaara mai ana i ngā āhuatanga i taupokina ai te whenua e ēnei momo ngāru taupoki nunui hai tohu i a tātau kia āta manaaki, waihanga i te taiao i nāianei, hai ngā tau e heke mai nei kei whīua tātau e ngā ngaru taupoki nunui kino nei.

Ko ngā kairangahau o Kia Manawaroa, Ngā Ākina Te Au Tūroa tūhono ki te mātauranga Māori kua tīmata ki te rangahau i aua korero tuku iho nei tapaia nei He Kōrero Whakataratara, kia hererea ngā kōrero tuku iho nei mo ēnei āhuatanga o ngā ngaru taupoki nunui kino o Aotearoa i tau atu ki runga o Rangitoto motu (D’Urville Island). Ko aua momo kōrero, He Kōrero Whakataratara The Rival Wizards he mea tuhituhi, i whakapukapukatia i te tau 1907 e te Pākehā nei a Alfred Grace (1867 to 1942), he kairangahau kohikohinga kōrero ia.

Kei roto i te kōrero nei He Kōrero Whakataratara; nā Te Pou he rangatira o taua wā i whakaara i tono kia ākina, kia whīua a Titipa tana hoariri e ngā ngaru taupoki nunui kino nei he kore no Titipa e aro nui atu ki ngā whakahau a Te Pou. Ko ēnei ngaru taupoki nunui kino e kōrerotia ana e tukituki ana i ngā tātahi, onepū kia pākarukaru, pakaru katoa te whenua.  E ai ki ngā kairangahau ko ngā momo kōrero mo aua ngaru taupoki nunui nei, ōrite tonu ki ngā kōrero, ngā whakamārama o ngā ngaru taupoki nunui e kitea ana i ēnei rā e te hunga i waimarie te ora mōrehu mai i aua ngaru taupoki nunui kikino nei.


The northern coast of D’Urville Island where ongoing work alongside Ngati Koata and Ngati Kuia will take place over the months ahead. Photo: Dr. Emily Lane

Hai whakatinana i ēnei momo kōrero, whakakitenga ka whakaritea e ngā kairangahau kia uiuitia kia 20 tāngata o Ngāti Koata me Ngāti Kuia he hono o ēnei iwi ki te pito tokerau o Te Wai Pounamu kai reira nei te motu o Rangitoto. I roto i ngā uiui nei ko te mea nui i whāia e ngā kairangahau kia mau ki te kōrero o taua ngaru taupoki nunui, kia kaua e tirohia pēnei i tā te kōrero pūrākau whakakitenga. I āta rangahautia e ngā kairangahau kia pono te takoto mai o te kōrero, kia wherawhera tikahia aua kōrero kia kaua e noho hai kōrero whakawhitiwhiti pūrākau tōna whakaritenga, kia mau ko te ia tika o te kōrero pono.

Ko ngā tāngata o Ngāti Koata me Ngāti Kuia i uiuitia he mea tuku atu he tuhinga o te Kōrero Whakataratara The Rival Wizards i mua i te uiuitanga, haere nei te rangahau ko ia tangata i uiuitia, e kī tonu ana kāore rātau i kite i tēnei tuhinga Kōrero Whakataratara i mua i te whakahaeretanga o te uiui rangahau nei. Ahakoa anō tēnei i te mārama ngā tāngata i uiuitia ki ngā āhuatanga whakatakoto, whakahau kōrero o te ia o ēnei momo Kōrero Whakataratara. Āua atu e mōhiotia ana a Karepa Te Whetu nāna i tuku, i kōrero atu tēnei kōrero ki a Alfred Grace.  Whakaae katoa ngā tāngata i uiuitia ko Karepa Te Whetu e noho ana ki runga o te motu o Rangitoto (D’Urville Island) i taua wā ā, ko ia te tama mātāmua a Te Whetu, he rangatira nui a Te Whetu o taua wā o Ngāti Koata. Ko te nuinga o ngā tāngata i uiuitia i kī tonu iho kāre rātau i te mōhio mo te Kōrero Whakataratara o The Rival Wizards i te mea hoki kua matemate katoa ngā tāngata o taua whakatipuranga, ā, kua hūnuku rānei te hunga i pakeke mai ki runga i te motu o Rangitoto, ngaro atu hoki ki a rātau aua momo Kōrero Whakataratara.  Haunga anō ko te tino whakaritenga o tēnei rangahau e kī ana tērā kai roto i aua momo Kōrero Whakataratara ngā kōrero mo aua ngaru taupoki nunui tūkino o Aotearoa haere ake nei.  Me aro tonu ki aua momo kohinga kōrero kia mārama ai tātau i nāianei, kia noho tūpato, kia kaha te kairangahau ki te wherawhera i ngā kōrero mo aua ngaru taupoki nunui tūkino nei kia noho reri te hunga kei te taha moana e noho ana.  



Māori oral histories provide a rich source of understanding and information about past tsunamis in Aotearoa-New Zealand. They draw from multiple layers of experience and meaning, helping to recall the past as well as remind us about environmental risks in the present and future.

Researchers from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Mātauranga Māori programme have recently delved into a ‘folk tale’ called The Rival Wizards to explore the inclusion of Māori ancestral experience with tsunami(s) on Rangitoto (D’Urville Island). The Rival Wizards is one of a number of Māori ‘folk tales’ published in 1907 by the European ethnographer Alfred Grace (1867 – 1942). In the story [hereafter pūrākau], the ‘wizard-chief’, Te Pou, summoned three great waves to extract retribution on his rival Titipa for defying him. These great waves were described, including how they struck and scoured the shores. According to the researchers the descriptive language is similar to that used by modern-day tsunami survivors.

To affirm the inclusion of tsunami narratives within the pūrākau, researchers conducted interviews with 20 key informants from Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia. These informants hold deep connections with the top of the South Island (where Rangitoto is located). The researchers were careful to ensure their analysis focussed on emphasising the participant’s views, rather than the meaning they themselves brought to the research. They wanted to avoid subjecting the pūrākau to any external judgements and risk turning it into something it was not.

Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia interviewees were given a written copy of The Rival Wizards before their interview, and upon questioning each person revealed that they did not know the pūrākau prior to the study. However, the informants were familiar with many of the elements and storytelling devices contained in the pūrākau. There was also widespread awareness of Karepa Te Whetu who told the pūrākau to Alfred Grace. All informants agreed that Karepa Te Whetu lived on Rangitoto, and was the elder son of Te Whetu, a respected Ngāti Koata leader. Many of the informants considered that the reason they did not specifically know about The Rival Wizards was due to whānau having passed on or moving away from the island, taking many of their stories with them.

Informants from both Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia spoke at length about the likelihood that the pūrākau derived from Rangitoto. The names and descriptions of locations were considered as well as common references to incantation and shapeshifting which were regarded as highly relevant to any claims of the narrative coming from the northern South Island. Further still, most of the Ngāti Kuia informants recognised the names of the main characters in the pūrākau, such as Rongomai, Te Pou and Titipa. One respondent said that Te Pou was his father’s middle name, and that “every Peter is a Pou” in Ngati Kuia.

At the end of The Rival Wizards Te Pou calls forth three catastrophic waves, which almost all informants agreed most likely referred to direct experience with one or multiple past tsunamis. However, they did not know exactly where or when this happened. Thinking about the great waves described in the pūrākau also led several of the informants to note similarities with another pūrākau from Moawhitu (Greville Harbour) on the western side of Rangitoto. In this alternative narrative, a tsunami possibly occurring in the 1400s or 1500s drowned nearly everyone living in the area, and their bodies now lie in the surrounding sand dunes. This catastrophic inundation may be the same one described in The Rival Wizards.

By working directly with Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia it is clear that there is a deep familiarity with the different elements of The Rival Wizards, including knowledge of a past tsunami (and possibly multiple events) on and surrounding Rangitoto. The importance of taking such stories ‘home’ to the community and family groups where they were originally told was also made clear through this research. It emphasises not only the critical role of whakapapa [ancestral lineage, genealogy] in framing and comprehending the context of such narratives, but it also recognises the authority of kin groups such as Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia, to reclaim and affirm their histories in their own words. This on-going work has the potential to contribute to the production of ‘new’ plural narratives about tsunami disturbance, recurrence and risk around Aotearoa-New Zealand’s coast.

To access the full research article please see: https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-907-2018