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Māori have a special relationship with the land, waterways and other natural resources. This is expressed through kaitiakitanga. Māori also have significant interests in land management through their ownership and management interests in large areas of pastoral farmland, and exotic and indigenous forests.
Climate change presents considerable challenges to Māori. Many areas of Māori land are steep and vulnerable to storms and erosion; these lands will be even more exposed and vulnerable with the predicted arrival of more frequent and severe storms in the west, and droughts in the east of New Zealand. Taking action to adapt to climate change, and Māori involvement in this action, is therefore critical.
The Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change discussion document (supplementary discussion paper) proposes some options to help land managers and land owners adapt to a changing climate and reduce agricultural emissions. It also proposes options for encouraging the planting of more forests to act as carbon sinks, and to discourage deforestation (defined as the conversion of a forested area to another land use).
In agriculture, some options for climate change policy would have significant financial implications for Māori landowners, while others would have relatively little direct effect on farming operations – or could even improve farming productivity and assist to further reduce the impacts of farming on the environment.
Options for reducing deforestation will inevitably affect landowners’ flexibility to change the way their land is used. This is particularly important given the restrictions Māori face on the sale of multiply-owned land and the desire, by at least some landowners, to intensify existing agricultural production.
Options for creating forest sinks may significantly benefit Māori. In areas of marginal hill country, extra returns available for forest planting could assist Māori landowners attract external investment.
Māori may also be interested in exploiting the many business opportunities presented by climate change. The Government wishes to look at ways the land management sectors and government can work together to achieve this.
A key platform supporting all the possible options is the Government’s suggestion that a new kind of working relationship be established between central government, local government and people and organisations in the land management sectors. Māori have unique knowledge and experience to bring to this relationship.
Finally, all the options in the discussion document have the potential to deliver multiple benefits in support of sustainable land management outcomes, as well as climate change outcomes. Such benefits could include improved water quality, and better management of flood and erosion risks.
The Government will be conducting a series of hui on its proposed climate changes policies in February and March 2007. A range of climate change policy proposals – covering not only land management, but also energy and long-term climate change actions to reduce emissions – will be presented for discussion.
Details of hui times, dates and venues will be published in the new year on government websites, and will also be available through a range of Māori iwi and hapu groups and organisations.