Coastal erosion devastating livelihoods in Hawke's Bay community

For the second story in 1News' Small Town Series, Henry McMullan visits Māhia where they're working to restore the whenua after recent severe weather.

The aftermath of record-breaking rainfall is still being felt by communities in Hawke's Bay, with food sources and livelihoods left in jeopardy.

Māhia is home to almost a thousand permanent residents and it's easy to see why locals love their backyard, surrounded by beautiful beaches and dramatic coastal landscape.

The much-loved land is being crumbled by the growing amount of severe weather events. Coastal erosion is now affecting roads, sacred land and traditional food gathering sites.

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Rongomaiwahine iwi and community leaders are leading the way in partnership to help restore the whenua.

Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust Manager Terence Maru said the ocean is a lifeline for the community.

"The idea behind the project is to have a coordinated approach so we have a concerted effort to really improve the environment, we talk about moving from abundance back to abundance. We are sea people, we live in it, it sustains us.

"There's a lot of poverty in Māhia and the way that we live is through kaimoana, it's part of our stable diet. Traditional gathering grounds have depleted so much now that to get a kai we now have to go further around the point, we now have to dive in dangerous spots.

"My father used to just walk out, put his feet under the rock and shuffle crays out, with the sedimentation around Kaiuku marae there's nothing there now."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Nathan Heath said he's witnessed many changes to the region's landscape.

"There's no doubt based on anecdotes and my own personal experience that the sediment coming off the hills is affecting the marine life and kaimoana.

"The sediment rates on the east coast have a lot to do with the geology, the geology is really young and you combine that with a high frequency of big storms, those two things mean our erosion rates are really really high."

Significant sites like urupa are now in danger of being washed away.

Rongomaiwahine Iwi Trust's Nolan Maru said there are multiple sites in danger.

"One of our monuments here, which is of our tupuna Alexander Ormond, has already been moved inland because of land slipping.

"There's four urupa within the next four kilometres situated on the beachfront, our tupuna are going to end up floating if we don't do something about it now."


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