In the wake of historic storms, the Māori say New Zealand must center Indigenous peoples in climate disaster plans.
In February, Cyclone Gabrielle hit New Zealand, bringing devastating floods and powerful winds, destroying homes, displacing thousands, and killing at least eleven people. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins called it “the most significant weather event New Zealand has seen in this century.” Around 70 percent of destroyed homes were occupied by Indigenous Māori, but Māori leaders say that they have been left out of recovery services and funding.
“Because climate events have gotten more and more intense, it’s at a point of our communities will either get wiped out through more storms or have to choose to leave their homelands,” Renee Raroa, a Ngati Porou Māori representative from Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti in eastern New Zealand, said. “We’re running out of options.”
With the frequency and severity of storms increasing, along with other climate impacts like rising sea levels, Māori peoples are facing increasingly dire climate crises and calling on the United Nations for help. At the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, Māori representatives called on New Zealand to include Māori people in disaster recovery plans, provide support for Indigenous-led climate initiatives, and fully implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a nonbinding resolution that affirms international Indigenous rights. Māori representatives also called on the U.N. to pressure New Zealand to support Indigenous land rights.
“Cyclone Gabrielle exposed the human rights dimensions of climate change disaster,” said Claire Charters, Māori Indigenous Rights Governance Partner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. “Māori rights must be part of all climate change and emergency policy and law…”