Tēnā koutou katoa
Ko Corona te waka
Ko Chain Hills te maunga
Ko Abbots Creek te awa
Nō Abbotsford ahau
Ko Ally Reid tōku ingoa
Nō reira, tēnā koutou,
tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

Growing up in Ōtepoti Dunedin during the 1970s and 80s, without even being aware
of it, everything around me was ‘white washed’. I remember my time at Abbotsford
School when I was about 11, one day behind the school hall we had a hāngī.
Another time when I was at Kaikorai Valley High School, we visited the Otago
Museum and I do remember being way more fascinated with the Egyptian Mummy
than the marae. Everything else taught in class was basically related to our white
colonial history. In Girl Guides, we visited a marae in Portobello (taking off my shoes
confused me no end), all I remember was my feet were cold. Yes there was a small
population of Māori students at school, but what sticks out for me in my childhood is
suddenly learning that I had six more first cousins (of similar ages) who just
happened to be Māori.

I was fascinated because although we are related, it was obvious that they were
different to my little white girl self. But only in adulthood did I hear of their lived
experiences of racism that they were subjected to by other Pākehā. To be frank, my
personal experience with Māori culture and language was non-existent. Being a girl
as well, in a traditional colonial-type family, meant that higher education was not
encouraged, there was an expectation to get a good suitable woman-type job, get
married, have children and be content with my lot. However, in my mid-20s I
decided to go to Otago University and study social anthropology (only later learning
about the negative impact anthropology has had on Indigenous peoples). I knew the
risk to my reputation in my immediate social circles, but I took that jump anyway.

This was fuelled on by my own contrary nature as well as my obsessive ADHD-type
personality. I have always strived to do the opposite of what I’ve been told, it’s just
part of my automatic reaction to not conform. Choosing a Treaty of Waitangi paper
triggered others but I continued onwards. How Māori were treated, and marginalised
in every social context of our New Zealand settler-colonial project is horrific.

Fast forward to 2024 and living in Rotorua, I am even more aware in how normalised

‘white washing’ in this country has become, including in our approach towards the
climate crisis. Our colonial capitalist framework has us moving ever forwards in a
linear timeframe and restricts urgent climate change action because of the nature of
industrialisation and our modes of production1. Climate change action in Aotearoa is
seen as being bad for business. Nonetheless, the 2023 general election sparked
conversations about climate change, noting the impacts and reactions to extreme
weather events2. When thinking of climate change as a linear event we tend to be
reactive, but if we change our thinking about climate change to a non-linear focus
and instead consider the past, present and future, we can be better prepared.

Reflecting on the havoc wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023, I think

about the benefits of shifting our thoughts towards decolonising climate change
initiatives. Responses to the cyclone saw acceptance that extreme weather is
becoming a reoccurring issue. Recognition that such events are part of a new norm
is at variance with the approach of successive governments, which respond as if
they are one-off events.

I am writing this as the current coalition government form a political consensus
acknowledging the need for climate change action, recognising Aotearoa New
Zealand signed up to the 2015 Paris Agreement agreeing to achieve net zero carbon
emissions by 20503 4 5 6.  A linear understanding of time in this context focuses on
the 26 years to meet this target7 8, with likely delays due to more recycling of colonial
capitalist approaches. Something different is needed.

We have an opportunity to develop new initiatives for climate change response,
including alignment with Te Tiriti o Waitangi9. We cannot continue with the colonial
status quo – decolonising climate change action is required.

Status quo approaches outlined in the new government’s documents
Blueprint for a
Better Environment10 and 100 Day Plan11 reflect an ideology, rather than considering
material changes in the atmosphere. Initiatives for addressing climate change
include only gradual reduction of carbon emissions, keeping the 48% of our
emissions arising from agriculture12, out of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

In contrast, Māori view climate change action as a now issue, that reflects the

temporality of time in a non-linear sense13. Whereas our successive colonial
governments view climate change through a neo-liberal lens, where decisions are
influenced by profit-driven imperatives14. Any concept of financial deficit required in
the face of the climate change emergency is undesirable. However, climate change
is a reality now, and we need to prepare for more climate change-related disasters.

At an infrastructure industry conference in 2023, the then opposition National Party

Leader Christopher Luxon spoke on future needs for the country. There was no
mention of effects of Cyclone Gabrielle, net zero carbon targets, the need for
adaptation, or even the word ‘climate’15. This absence is concerning because our
infrastructure is not resilient. The 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target does have
cross-party support, but there are other political viewpoints that see climate change
responses as irrational, costly and bureaucratic, and do not support further
development of co-governance arrangements in the mitigation of climate change.

The inclusion of Māori voices in policy making and the implementation of policy is

one example of co-governance, which has previously been supported16 17. A co-
governance approach recognises the importance of climate change action based on
te ao Māori, collectivism and the interconnection of people with nature. It is the
inclusion of this sense of interconnection during policy development that requires
further thought, moving away from the current white-washed, colonial positionality.
This includes adapting mechanisms for combatting climate change such as the ETS,
which currently ignores the significance of interconnection.
Adapting the ETS could be a positive step forward but as it currently excludes the
agricultural sector, this reduces the effectiveness and legitimacy of the ETS – which
continues to be impacted by attempts to placate rural lobby groups18. Some predict
that the ETS may even cease to exist by 2037 due to the future price of carbon and
high costs of living19 20. The ETS could be a more effective tool if all emitters were
included, but both successive governments have succumbed to pressure to delay
action. Instead, they hope that innovative technology will reduce agricultural carbon
emissions and help meet the 2050 net-zero target.

Adopting a decolonial co-governance approach is supported by the sixth report of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC Report and
Paris Agreement now call for improved respect and better awareness of Indigenous
climate change knowledge21. This demonstrates Indigenous knowledge and
approaches could help decelerate the climate crisis22.

The IPCC report and Te Tiriti o Waitangi show a connection over time, which could
be argued is a non-linear viewpoint in itself, linking the present and future with the
past. Acceptance of the need to adopt decolonising practices provides an
opportunity to align with a non-linear Indigenous-led approach to solving complex
problems, and climate change is no different.

Debate continues on Te Tiriti, co-governance, and the place for Indigenous
knowledge in policy and action. As previously noted, successive governments have
understood only the linear timeline with climate change action seen as the future’s
challenge. It is time to recognise our Indigenous views of climate change as a ‘now’
problem to fix. Climate change action could then take on a new lease of life, that
sees it at the forefront of political action locally and globally, with Indigenous practice
informing policy as collective action centred upon the present, utilising knowledge
from the past, with an eye to enabling future generations to thrive.

Ally Reid


1 Baisden, T. Climate explained: could biofuels replace all fossil fuels in New Zealand?
2 Daalder, M. National’s ‘carbon dividend’ takes climate cash for tax cuts
3 National Party. National’s plan to get our country back on track
4 ACT Party. A climate response that doesn’t cost the Earth
5 NZ First Party. New Zealand First 2023 Policies
6 Nature Climate Change. Response: The Paris Agreement
7 Shaw, J. Climate emergency declaration will be matched with long-term action
8 Ministry for the Environment. About the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme
9 Kingi, T. Māori landownership and land management in New Zealand (pp. 142-3)
10 National Party. Blueprint for a Better Environment
11 National Party. 100 day Action Plan
12 Stats NZ. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions
13 Ministry for the Environment. Exploring An Indigenous Worldview Framework For The National Climate Change Adaptation Plan
14 Jones, R. To tackle the climate crisis, we need to transform systems according to ancestral original instructions
15 Williams, D. Infrastructure: Luxon’s infrastructure pledges don’t mention climate
16 Madden, K. Restarting the Co-governance conversation
17 Palmer, M. The Treaty in New Zealand’s Law and Constitution
18 Smith, A. National wants to keep agriculture off the ETS, give farmers more time before paying for emissions
19 Cardwell, H. What’s wrong with the Emissions Trading Scheme?
20 Cassegard, C. Toward a Critical Theory of Nature: Capital, Ecology, and Dialectics (pp. 3-4)
21 Climate Change Commission. Progress toward agricultural emissions pricing
22 Carmona, R., et, al.  Analysing engagement with Indigenous Peoples in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (p. 2)