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Climate change is threatening an iconic 143-year-old marae in Tauranga.
Maungatapu Marae sits in the valley of Maungatapu on waterfront land facing Rangataua Bay and has been there since the 1880s.
Ngāti Hē kaumātua Peter Ririnui said rising sea levels at the waterfront, increasing rainfall and storms and the water runoff from the hill above them were only some of the climate issues they were facing.
“Certainly, what’s become obvious is the impact of tides on us… what we are having to be concerned about with regard to how long we can actually stay here before we have to move because of the rise of the water.”
Ririnui said they would have to relocate the marae within the next thirty years, but their biggest worry was where to move it - it might have to be on the land of another hapū.
Tauranga City Council has had assessments of coastal erosion and harbour inundation carried out, including projections about what changes are likely to occur by the 2070-2080 period.
It has made maps covering the area publicly available, identifying what land is potentially at risk of instability, flooding and erosion by the sea.
Storms increase the risks.
For the marae in 2070-2080, they indicate land in front eroding and that it will be under 0.2 metres of water.
Ririnui said key organisations, including the council, met with the hapū 15 years ago.
He admits there was no hapū member that wanted to take the lead.
The mayor at the time, Stuart Crosby, was part of the talks.
“Stuart Crosby and his CEO were very keen for us to proceed with some plan, but that never came to fruition. Unfortunately, because of the change of mayors … it became quite hard to push something.”
Now part of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Crosby said the marae would need support from central government, local government, and the broader community to move forward.
“It’s been a real wake-up call. Many people have been talking about this for decades, but often to deaf ears, and now I think people realise that we need to do things.
“They won’t be able to manage any form of retreat and relocation on their own, if that is the option. Or they won’t be able to manage protection mechanisms on their own.”
Tauranga City Council commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said in a written statement that issues relating to Maungatapu Marae would require all relevant parties involved to come up with an implementation plan.
She said any plan would be developed alongside tangata whenua and the community.
Ririnui said some hapū members had a meeting with the Tauranga City Council earlier in the year, but he just wanted to see some action.
“[If they could] delegate someone to come and sit with us - maybe then [that could] help us to start formulating a collective of people.”