Māori need to do more for our Pacific cousins

Māori pacific

As our Pacific Islands cousins face the unprecendented impacts of climate change, they are looking for allies who will support them by taking concrete actions to limit global warming to 1.5oC and will also rehome the now inevitable climate change refugees from low lying Pacific states.

Those allies are precious few.

Most nations are long on words and short on action.

Aotearoa New Zealand can be counted among the majority, having turned down applications from Kiribati and Tuvalu citizens for climate change refugee status and as a nation having year on year increases in carbon emissions.

If the inaction of Aotearoa is disappointing, the silence of our iwi and other tāngata whenua representatives on the situation for Pacific Islands is incomprehensible.

We may be separated by years and distance, but we are Pacific Islands peoples and they are our tuakana.

When Tamatea returned to Rangiātea from Aotearoa, he sought the assistance of his cousin Waitaha to undertake the task of building the Tākitimu canoe and returning to Aotearoa with new knowledge and skills.

Waitaha quickly agreed and as a start, gifted a large log named Pūwhenua for the carving.

In that moment, the success and development of Tamatea’s community depended on the knowledge and skill that was retained by their Pacific Islands cousins in Rangiātea; without hesitation, Waitaha and his people provided generous care and support.

Eight hundred years on, our tuākana in the Pacific Islands could be forgiven for wondering if we’ve forgotten our stories.

In the past three years the Pacific Islands nations have experienced the three most intense tropical cyclones on record: Winston, Pam and Gita.

The damage in various islands of Tuvalu, Solomons, New Caledonia, Vanauatu, Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji has been catastrophic and enduring.

Eight islands in Micronesia have disappeared as a signpost to the coming impacts of sea level rise due to climate change.

Kiribati in particular faces a challenging future, already experiencing a reduction in arable land as the water table becomes salinated by the rising ocean.

Yet at international forums on climate change and here in Aotearoa, our Pacific Islands cousins have spoken alone for support and action.

Yet iwi are well aware of the threat that climate change poses. Continue reading

  • Graham Bidois Cameron (Ngāti Ranginui) is a doctoral student in the Department of Theology and Religion at Otago University but is based in Tauranga Moana. He is a commentator on social and political issues concerning tangata whenua.
  • Image: YouTube
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