Cultural values support climate change resilience
Understanding the implications of climate change on land and coastal management practices and the custodial responsibilities of landowners is an important issue for all landowners including Māori.
One such landowner is the Aohanga Incorporation which owns Owahanga Station located on the North Island’s east coast.
The station occupies more than 7,000 hectares south-east of Dannevirke in the Wairarapa. It has 14 kilometres of Pacific Ocean coastline and much of the land ranges from steep to very steep rising to 470 metres above sea level.
Some 3,000 hectares are in pasture with 38,000 sheep and beef livestock units. The remainder of the land ranges from plantation forest and mature indigenous forest to manuka and kanuka scrub.
Through the Aohanga Incorporation there are some 1,400 shareholders of the land.
Over the past year a group of scientists, facilitated by AgResearch scientist, Dr Bruce Small, have been working with the Aohanga Committee of Management to look at the development of strategies to protect the land and business activities against the impacts of climate change and how they might be integrated into the overall business plan.
Dr Small says that the view of the Incorporation, as long-term landowner, and the cultural values of its owners are integral to the development of a climate change strategy.
“The Incorporation is an organisation committed to perpetual land ownership and sustainable development for the benefit of current and future generations. When we are looking at the future effects of climate change on Owahanga Station we are also looking at how those values integrate with climate change strategies.
“Because Aohanga takes a long-term view of managing and caring for their land, and climate change is a long-term phenomenon, it is appropriate that Owahanga Station’s climate resilience strategy be integrated into Aohanga’s long-term strategic business plan – the GrowthPLUS™ Strategy.”
Scientists from NIWA, the Cawthron Institute, Scion and AgResearch came together to work with the Incorporation to review the potential impacts of climate change and the range of management strategies that could be used to not only mitigate the effects but to develop a business plan which would strengthen the business.
“The process was an iterative one which involved the scientists and board members of the Incorporation,” says Dr Small.
“During the discussions, forestry, aquaculture and energy generation emerged as business opportunities that would be consistent with climate change mitigation and provide long-term opportunities for the Incorporation.
“We are looking at two types of strategies that the Incorporation can integrate with their business plan for the future use of their land – mitigation and adaptation.”
The Incorporation's management and governance bodies considered how the options fitted with their business objectives as well as with the cultural values of the owners. Aohanga prioritised four initial climate change resilience strategies for further investigation and potential development:
- Water harvesting
- Erosion control throughout the property including along the coastline
- Strengthening core business (sheep and beef)
- Building soil humus and managing gorse and weed control.
“These strategies are aimed at achieving aspirations of sustainable development, stewardship and benefit for current and future generations of owners,” says Dr Small.
AgResearch recently secured a new Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund project which will develop the Social Return on Investment framework to analyse the social, financial and environmental benefits of the four priority strategies for Aohanga.
The key, Dr Small says, is that the land is adaptively managed so that any changes to the business activities are driven by those cultural values and aspirations as well as by business opportunities that are consistent with the changing climate and its effects on the land and environment.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the rate and magnitude of climate change, and the effectiveness of the mitigation and adaptation actions, it will be necessary to monitor and evaluate both the implementation of the resilience strategy, and actual climate change impacts, with a view to adaptively managing the strategy to achieve the desired results.
Aohanga Incorporation has included within its strategic business plan continuation of sheep and beef farming as a core business, and climate change mitigation and resilience strategies to retain livestock area productivity.
Industry technical input, with facilitation by AgResearch, has been provided within a $160,000 Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change investment.
Using Beef + Lamb New Zealand Economic Service data for North Island hard hill country farms (of which Owahanga Station is considered representative), and using estimates of total North Island Māori-owned pastoral land within this category, adopting climate change resilience would sustain an estimated gross farm gate revenue of $280 million per annum generated from Māori-owned sheep and beef hill county farms in the North Island.