top of page

Climate Adaptation Plan
- July 2022

Ōwhiro Bay is a southern suburb of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington, New Zealand), that overlooks Te Moana-o-Raukawa, (Cook Strait).  In the media last month, Ōwhiro Bay was the poster suburb of the Government’s first national adaptation plan; Urutau, ka taurikura: Kia tū pakari a Aotearoa i ngā huringa āhuarangi – Adapt and thrive: Building a climate-resilient New Zealand.


The climate has warmed by 1.1°C in the past 100 years – we are already seeing the devastating effects. We can expect to continue to see rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, and an increased risk of wildfire and drought. We can meet the challenges of a changing climate – but there is no time to waste.  We need to take action now.  That is the purpose of this national adaptation plan.  Climate change is exacerbating the risk of existing natural hazards – including flooding and drought – and creating new risks such as sea-level rise.   We can build on our past experience with natural hazards to prepare for increased risk in the future.


This national adaptation plan is the first in a series.  Every six years, He Pou a Rangi – Climate Change Commission will prepare a national climate change risk assessment.  This will identify the climate risks that need to be addressed most urgently.  New national adaptation plans that respond to those risks will be developed in consultation with all New Zealanders.

This first plan focuses on getting the foundations right.  It sets out what the Government will do to enable better risk-informed decisions, drive climate-resilient development

in the right locations, help communities assess adaptation options (including managed retreat), and embed climate resilience into all of the Government’s work.


There are multiple articles and summaries of the document (like:


Nonetheless, Ōwhiro Bay, where Climate Change Minister the Hon. James Shaw announced the plan, is an interesting place – the bay and stream (Ōwhiro Stream) are named after the famous navigator Whiro (Ironui or ‘Iro in Rarotonga, Hilo in Hawai’i, Hiro in Tahiti) who landed the waka Nukutere there. He is the most widely known navigating figure in East Polynesian oral tradition. His daughter, Huturangi, married the ancestor Paikea, who is said to have arrived from Hawaiki on a whale. See the novel "The Whale Rider" by Witi Ihimaera, and the 2002 film Whale Rider, written and directed by Niki Caro.



However, a different Whiro, Whiro-te-tipua, is the lord of darkness and embodiment of all evil in Māori mythology. He inhabits the underworld and is responsible for the ills of all persons, a contrast to his brother and enemy Tāne. According to some tribes, when people die, their bodies descend into the underworld, where they are eaten by Whiro. Each time Whiro eats a body, he becomes stronger. This process will eventually make him sufficiently powerful to break free of the underworld, at which point he will come to the surface and devour everything and everyone on it, trying to keep the world in perpetual darkness. Taiwhetuki – Whiro's House of Death – is a deep and dark cave where all things evil are preserved, such as black magic. It is a place in which countless personifications of illnesses and diseases dwell.


Let’s hope that Climate Change, (sea level rise, flooding, and other natural hazards etc.) does not open Taiwhetuki – Whiro's House of Death…


Geography, digital geography has a role to play in the various outcomes of Climate Change, watch this space as new technologies and methodologies evolve in our ever-changing world.

- Matt Couldrey [geoid - digital geography]


bottom of page