Indigenous Disaster Planning
I was also lucky enough to chair three sessions on Indigenous experiences of disasters at the International Geographic Union conference in Kyoto. In particular the experiences of Indigenous Taiwanese geographers such as Tung Hsiung Kuo, a Paiwan tribal member studying at National Kaohsiung Normal University, Kaohsiung, who presented his work on the cultural traditions of his people and how the knowledge around surviving in a seismically active region also subject to cyclones are passed down the generations. Government influence has seen villages relocated from historically safe locations to spaces now vulnerable to landslides such as those caused by Typhoon Morakot in August 2009. Australian geography was particularly well represented and given their proximity to our own shores (oaky, that’s 1,000 miles of salty water but it’s all relative!), perhaps we should know more about the geography of that incredibly diverse land and its ancient occupation than the ‘GC’.
Reflecting on these and other conferences (such as the Australia and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management event in Brisbane), I am struck by the need for collective Indigenous tactics and strategies dealing with an overlapping of the four R’s disaster management – reduction, readiness, response and recovery. While still recovering from Cyclone Bola on the East Coast, Ngāti Porou communities will be responding to drought and engaging in reduction and readiness programmes for sea-level rise, all within a context of often extreme economic pressures. The Ōtautahi earthquakes have prompted a huge outpouring of research, much of it related to the geophysical sciences and this is to be applauded as we need to know more about this whenua we relate to in more ways than one…
Research by Hauauru Rae (University of Otago) compares post-disaster planning landscapes for Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan and Ōtautahi/Christchurch. While a more participatory approach has evolved through the Taiwanese recovery to a major earthquake in 1999, Ngāi Tahu’s is acknowledged as a formal stakeholder in the rebuild through the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act (2011). Ngāi Tahu have, like the rest of the city, acquired considerable experience around the resourcing and skills needed in disaster response. But as Hauauru Rae points out, a formal role for Ngā Maata Waka, those Māori who do not trace their lineage through Ngāi Tahu (and who comprise a majority of Māori in the city), is not acknowledged in legislation and does not feature in planning thus far, other than ad hoc community and committee representation open to all.
It is always fair and perhaps fundamental to describe disaster risk reduction as a work-in-progress. I would argue we have the model for a more insightful – through its inclusivity – approach to each of the four ‘R’s by reducing our vulnerability more accurately assessing risks to Maori and Indigenous communities, being more ready by acknowledging the knowledges these communities hold, responding better be networking with, for example, Kaupapa Maori delivery services, and recovering faster and stronger through partnering with all Maori.