NUWAO Nature-based Solutions Design Guide for Te Moananui Oceania

We don’t have land, we are the land
We don’t have ocean, we are the ocean
We don’t have relationship, we are the relationship
Rooted, connected
Fixed yet fluid
Upolu Lumā Vaai (2017)

This page is currently under construction.

The NUWAO Nature-based Solutions Design Guide for Te Moananui Oceania is a tool for those involved in urban design, planning, policy-making, and community engagement, who aim to create urban spaces that work with nature to enhance the health and wellbeing of people, other living beings, and ecosystems. It features an accessible database of approximately 100 practical NbS strategies, offering guidance and inspiration for the design of NbS initiatives. The strategies range from internationally recognised to those unique to the Te Moananui Oceania region. NbS can be searched for in five distinct ways based on: realms of influence related to a varying but common Te MoananuiOceania notion of interconnected living ecologies; climate change impacts addressed; societal benefits produced; the location of case studies; or by alphabetical order. 

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Nature-based solutions and climate change in Te Moananui Oceania

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits” (Cohen-Shacham et al., 2019).

More simply, NbS involve working with nature so that the wellbeing of both humans and non-human life and living systems are increased at the same time. NbS aim to enhance the resilience of ecosystems and increase the provision of ecosystem services (Kiddle et al., 2021a). NbS work with, rather than against nature and can lead to more effective and culturally rooted solutions to societal challenges by resetting socio-cultural systems through the restoration of ecological systems across interconnected landscapes, ocean ecologies, and the human cultures embedded in them (Mihaere, 2024). 

NbS are increasingly used globally as an integrated approach for responding to climate change, biodiversity loss, and broad sustainable development challenges. While Te  MoananuiOceaniahas been emerging as a leader in using NbS for climate change adaptation (Kiddle et al., 2021b), relationships to nature are different in the region when compared to other parts of the world. This means working with nature and designing and implementing NbS has different meanings and potentials in Te  Moananui Oceania (Mihaere, 2024).

Key barriers to the widespread implementation of NbS are a lack of expertise and knowledge and a lack of quantifiable evidence of performance and co-benefits (Linnerooth-Bayer et al. 2023). Our aim with this guide is to begin to address these barriers in the context of Te Moananui Oceania by identifying specific NbS strategies and matching these to various co-benefits related to Indigenous ways of framing wellbeing in the region, their climate adaptation potentials, and their potential contributions to addressing societal issues. We illustrate these by providing a set of Te Moananui Oceania region-specific case studies illustrating and demonstrating the potential of each featured NbS. Each NbS highlighted in the guide is explored through its relationship to Indigenous knowledge, the particular ecosystem where it can be implemented as part of urban planning and design, and its technical requirements. Strategies are complemented by links to images and further resources to provide evidence for claims made and to enable people to research individual NbS in more depth.

Nature-based solutions (NbS), linked with traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), provide a critical opportunity to generate innovative adaptation responses to climate change in Oceania. Multifaceted NbS work with, rather than against, nature and can lead to more effective and culturally rooted solutions to societal challenges, by concurrently resetting socio-cultural systems through the restoration of ecological systems across interconnected landscapes and ocean ecologies. Although considered to be innovative in terms of urban infrastructure design, the practice of working closely with nature in order to create and design effective and resilient human settlements, while maintaining healthy ecosystems, has always been a cornerstone of Te Ao Māori and traditional Pasifika societies. Indigenous knowledges have long held that human wellbeing is inextricably connected to ecosystem health, or in fact that there is no nature-culture dualism. Building on Indigenous framings of wellbeing and partnering TEK with NbS leads to place based, local urban design responses that offer long-term benefit in diverse Oceania contexts. Recognition of the interconnected relationships of people with the living world is also consistent with an ecosystem services framework, which is often used to address health and wellbeing outcomes internationally including in the Te MoananuiOceania region. This makes the use of NbS significant in the region. 

NbS, linked with traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and local or Indigenous knowledges, provide critical opportunities to generate innovative adaptation responses to climate change in the diverse region of Te Moananui Oceania (Kiddle et al., 2021a). The practice of working closely with nature to create and design effective and resilient human settlements, while maintaining healthy ecosystems, has always been a cornerstone of traditional Te Moananui Oceania cultures. Indigenous knowledges have long held that human wellbeing is inextricably connected to ecosystem health, or in fact that there is no nature-culture dualism (Harmsworth & Awatere, 2013). Building on Indigenous framings of wellbeing and partnering traditional knowledges with NbS leads to place-based, local, urban design responses that offer long-term benefits in diverse Te Moananui Oceania contexts (Kiddle et al., 2021b). Recognition of the interconnected relationships of people with the living world is also consistent with an ecosystem services framework, which is often used to address health and wellbeing outcomes internationally including in the Te MoananuiOceania region (McFarlane et al., 2019). This makes the use of NbS significant in the region. 

Despite research showing that climate change agendas that involve Indigenous and local peoples have more benefits than when only governments or the private sector are involved (World Bank,  2008), and warnings that NbS that do not consider complex justice issues in relation to Indigenous knowledges, colonial realities, and land tenure can cause harm (Abbott et al., 2022), most literature about NbS does not discuss Indigenous local knowledges or the participation and protection of local and Indigenous communities in NbS projects or strategies (Cottrell 2022). To partly address these issues, and take into account the unique context of Te Moananui Oceania, where aside from Hawai’i, New Caledonia, and Aotearoa New Zealand, the majority of national populations are Indigenous (Lindstrom 2010), this guide emphasises the importance of understanding and working with Indigenous and local knowledge and socio-ecological systems in climate adaptation interventions. 

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Search for Nature-based Solutions

Details about the NUWAO NbS Design Guide

What and who is NUWAO?

This guide was created by the Nature-based Urban design for Wellbeing and Adaptation in Oceania (NUWAO) research team. NUWAO is a project funded by the New Zealand Government through a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden grant, aiming to develop nature-based urban design solutions, driven by Indigenous knowledges that support climate change adaptation and individual and community wellbeing in diverse Te Moananui Oceania urban settings. We are a group of academics, ecologists, international development specialists, and urban, architectural, landscape, and spatial designers. The team is made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and New Caledonia. Further details about NUWAO, the team, and our other research activities and resources are available at

What is the geographical scope of the NUWAO Nature-based Solutions Design Guide?

The guide relates to Te Moananui Oceania, which are the island nations and territories of the Pacific Ocean including Aotearoa New Zealand. The region is very diverse in all ways; languages, cultures, colonial histories and realities, world views, ecologies, geology, political contexts, and climate realities, so what works in one place in Te Moananui Oceania may not be appropriate in another. The ‘Pacific region’ is itself a debated construct (Koro et al., 2023). Despite this, Te Moananui Oceania is often linked through varied but shared concepts of relationality and circular time (described in some places as tā, vā, and lā) (Mahina, 2010; Koro et al., 2023), and by the shared and connecting Moana (Pacific Ocean) as a physical space, expertly and intimately known and navigated by Oceanic peoples for thousands of years (Martins, 2020) (fig 1). This echoes Hau’ofa’s (1994) notion of Te Moananui Oceania as a ‘sea of islands’, where the ocean does not separate islands, but rather connects them. In recognition of efforts to decolonise the language used to describe the region and to emphasise the interconnected nature of Te Moananui Oceania, we refer to Te Moananui Oceania rather than ‘Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia’.

Figure 1 Te Moananui Oceania. Image by Sam Wood, 2024.

We highlight examples of NbS from the region that draw from both traditional wisdom and/or contemporary understandings. Where local examples are unavailable, we include case studies from other islands or coastal areas that could apply to Te Moananui Oceania. Our intention was to feature case studies that represent specific types of NbS rather than to include every example of NbS in the region. Additional details of NbS projects in Oceania may be found via The Kiwa Initiative

This guide primarily concentrates on NbS case studies in urban environments. The reason for this is two-fold: firstly, urban NbS in the region have received comparatively less focus (Kiddle et al., 2021a), and secondly, with the majority of the global population residing in cities, urban areas are the primary places where the effects of climate change are experienced (Pedersen Zari et al., 2022). In Aotearoa New Zealand for example, approximately 87% of the general population and 85% of Tangata Whenua (the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand) live in urban centres. This is the result of a rapid urbanisation process in the 20th century (Ryks et al., 2019). In almost every Pacific island nation, the rate of urban population growth now surpasses overall national population growth rates (Kiddle et al., 2021b). Moreover, some of the highest rates of urbanisation globally are found in Te Moananui Oceania, particularly in the western nations, including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu (Kiddle et al., 2021b).

Languages and translation

The guide was written in English but we have used local terms from throughout Te Moananui Oceania as needed. These terms appear with an English translation in brackets where possible, though some terms cannot be translated. Please see the glossary of terms at the end of this guide. We hope to be able to translate the guide into different languages of Te Moananui if funding becomes available.

How does the NUWAO Nature-based Solutions Design Guide complement other NbS work in Oceania?

We have worked with other groups in the region to complement policy, implementation guides, and resource hubs being concurrently devised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Our focus is on which specific NbS strategies might be useful in Te Moanaunui with an emphasis on design.

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Just and culturally effective NbS for Te Moananui Oceania

NbS design that considers human cultural relationships to land, ocean, and other aspects of the living world is an important contributor to a more holistic notion of ecological urban regeneration. This is of great importance for safeguarding both the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals and communities in the coming decades as humanity increasingly becomes urbanised, and as people must learn to create, adapt, and live in urban environments in a greatly changed ecological and climatic context. Taking a socio-ecological approach to NbS is also vital in justice-oriented understandings of climate change adaptation interventions, which is important in the diverse and complicated colonisation and post-colonisation contexts of Te Moananui Oceania. During the process of producing the NUWAO Nature-based Solutions Design Guide for Te Moananui Oceania, we identified several themes:

  • The peoples of Te Moananui have always worked with nature
  • NbS that reflect culture and worldview with integrity are likely to be more effective
  • Working with nature in Te Moananui is meaningful and political
  • NbS processes are as important as outcomes
  • Motivation and positionality are important
The peoples of Te Moananui have always worked with nature

Many Indigenous communities across Te Moananui Oceania already have a tradition of working with nature closely as part of their traditional and often contemporary worldview and practice. Unique NbS exist in the region, derived from people’s deeply connected understanding of place, ecology, and climate (Nunn et al., 2024). These work with local cultural values, world views, and conceptualisations of time, space, and relational understandings, bound up with concepts such as mauri and as discussed earlier. NbS could, and in some places in Te Moananui Oceania do already play a key role, enabling multiple co-benefits to evolve that focus on revitalising ecological health, and if designed well, also improve wellbeing (Pedersen Zari et al., 2019).

NbS that reflect culture and worldview with integrity are likely to be more effective

Worldviews related to human-nature relationships influence the design and acceptance of NbS. Leveraging the quality and variety of opportunities for human-nature relationships in urban contexts, and understanding how spatial experiences are linked through time is important in the creation of NbS that result in enhanced human wellbeing in Te Moananui Oceania. Experiencing and valuing nature-human relationships differs between various cultural groups (Sangha et al., 2018), and certainly this is true in Te Moananui Oceania, but to date, most examples of NbS do not deeply consider how cultural diversity and the differences between the preferences or needs of various groups of people can be more effectively explored and integrated into design practice (Cottrell 2022). Exploration of this is an opportunity for design-led research focused on NbS in Te Moananui Oceania (and in other parts of the world).

Working with nature in Te Moananui is meaningful and political

Working with nature in the context of Te Moananui Oceania is, or could be, a deeply meaningful, potentially spiritual, and certainly a political act in the context of decolonisation and re-Indigenisation (Abbott et al., 2022). People seeking to employ NbS in Te Moananui Oceania should be aware of this in planning, design, and participatory processes, and in planning overall design goals, outcomes, ongoing maintenance, and monitoring and evaluation processes.

NbS processes are as important as outcome

It is not just the technical measurable outcomes of NbS that determine their compatibility with local concepts of wellbeing and living ecologies in Te Moananui Oceania, but the overall frameworks of relational understanding, and the processes undertaken to arrive at and evolve NbS that are important (Mihaere et al., 2024). Exploration of this is an opportunity for design-led, participatory, and other forms of research focused on an expanded notion of NbS, not just as a technical approach to climate change adaptation, but also a culturally nuanced one. 

Motivation and positionality are important

The motivation and positionality behind NbS that centre worldview-driven local ideas and practices of wellbeing is likely to be of vital importance to their effectiveness in the Te Moananui Oceania context. This should be made transparent by funders, designers and planners, managers, and other actors involved in NbS design and implementation, and indeed all forms of climate adaptation work to avoid accidental neo-colonisation in the region (Cottrell, 2022; Mihaere et al., 2024).

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Effective design and implementation of Nature-based solutions in Te Moananui Oceania should: 

  1. Promote long-term resilience and regeneration and understand the interconnectedness of socio-ecological systems.
  2. Be driven by an understanding of local Indigenous cultures, knowledges, and values.
  3. Be based on local wellbeing paradigms and not solely on Western science understandings or measurements of climate change impacts or ecological health.
  4. Ensure equitable and just outcomes for local communities, and work to provide co-benefits that address social, economic, and environmental justice issues alongside responding to climate concerns.
  5. Recognise and prioritise Indigenous leadership and decision-making, and local hierarchies of power and decision-making. Indigenous peoples should be partners, not merely stakeholders. NbS should be led by and/or co-designed with local communities.
  6. Be teamed by proponents who understand the political nature of climate change actions and become advocates for system change.
This Nature-based Solutions Design Guide for Te Moananui Oceania represents a step towards beginning to reshape the urban and peri-urban landscapes of Te Moananui Oceania in ways that reflect local values and relationships as the climate continues to change. Indigenous-focused and led approaches are critical in the design of NbS in the region, including those aiming for wellbeing and adaptation to climate change and biodiversity loss. A crucial next step in implementing effective NbS in Te Moananui Oceania is to ensure that these solutions foster culturally appropriate and just climate adaptation. This involves achieving outcomes that uphold cultural values and support self-determination for local and Indigenous people. Culturally appropriate NbS must be informed by localised understandings of wellbeing to tap into potentially culturally meaningful NbS and to ensure that NbS aid in social and climate justice agendas rather than contribute to injustice, even if unintentionally. For local and Indigenous peoples of Te Moananui Oceania, these understandings are diverse but are linked by centring human-ecological relationships, spirituality, and understandings of connectedness. The understanding of human-ecological roles, values, and relationships in Te Moananui Oceania differs significantly from common European or North American perspectives on interactions between people and nature. This is where many ‘standardisations’ of NbS terms and processes come from, however. There is a pressing need for these standardisations, including terms, methods, and evaluation frameworks, to be adaptable enough to be relevant in specific localised contexts, especially in areas where Indigenous peoples reside. As Cottrell (2022, p. 167) points out, ‘future assessment and revisions to… [NbS] standards should build upon the inclusion of Indigenous peoples and local communities and strive to better validate, integrate, and protect Indigenous local knowledge in NbS projects’.

If cultural considerations are not prioritised in design and planning, adaptation efforts may not support the concept of ‘a good life’ and could result in further marginalisation of Indigenous peoples. In essence, for NbS to be effective, they need to be localised, not only related to the ecological and climatic conditions of a site but they also should align with local cultural knowledge and values. In climate change adaptation efforts, including NbS projects, there is an opportunity to place Indigenous local knowledge and voices at the heart of decision-making. Embracing a new (or rekindling an older) approach to our relationship with each other and the living world, one that honours human interdependence with ecological systems, and is informed by Indigenous knowledge and equitable power sharing is crucial. Advocates and practitioners of NbS have a responsibility to support this transformative shift, regardless of cultural background, particularly in Te Moananui Oceania.

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  • Abbott, M., Bakineti, T., Carter, L., Latai-Niusulu, A., Missack, W., Puketapu, I., & Kiddle, R. (2022). Indigenous thinking about nature-based solutions and climate change. The British Academy. Available online: Date accessed 1 September 2023.
  • Cohen-Shacham, E.; Andrade, A.; Dalton, J.; Dudley, N.; Jones, M.; Kumar, C.; Maginnis, S.; Maynard, S.; Nelson, C.R.; Renaud, F.G.; et al. Core principles for successfully implementing and upscaling nature-based solutions. Environ. Sci. Policy 2019, 98, 20–29.
  • Cottrell, C. (2022). Avoiding a new era in biopiracy: Including indigenous and local knowledge in nature-based solutions to climate change. Environmental Science & Policy, 135, 162-168.
  • Harmsworth, G.R., & Awatere, S. (2013). Indigenous Māori knowledge and perspectives of ecosystems. Ecosystem services in New Zealand—conditions and trends. Lincoln: Manaaki Whenua Press, pp. 274-286.
  • Hau’ofa, E. (1994). Our sea of islands. The Contemporary Pacific, 6 (1), pp. 148-161.
  • Kiddle, G.L., Pedersen Zari, M., Blaschke, P., Chanse, V., & Kiddle, R. (2021a). An Oceania urban design agenda linking ecosystem services, nature-based solutions, traditional ecological knowledge and wellbeing. Sustainability, 13(22), 12660.
  • Kiddle, G. L., Bakineti, T., Latai-Niusulu, A., Missack, W., Pedersen Zari, M., Kiddle, R., … & Loubser, D. (2021b). Nature-based solutions for urban climate change adaptation and wellbeing: evidence and opportunities from Kiribati, Samoa, and Vanuatu. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 442.
  • Koro, M., McNeill, H., Ivarature, H., & Wallis, J. (2023). Tā, Vā, and Lā: Re-imagining the geopolitics of the Pacific Islands. Political Geography, 105, 102931.
  • Lindstrom, L. (2010). Oceania: Islands, land, people. Cultural Survival Quarterly, 17(3).
  • Linnerooth-Bayer, J., Martin, J., Fresolone-Caparrós, A., Scolobig, A., Rodriguez, J.A., Solheim, A., Olsen, S.G. & Reutz, E.H. (2023). Learning from NBS implementation barriers. According to Nature PHUSICOS Deliverable 5.4. Report. Available online: Date assessed 9 February 2024.
  • Mahina, H. (2010). Tā, vā and Moana: Temporality, spatiality, and indigeneity. Pacific Studies, 33 Nos 2/3, pages 168-202. 
  • Martins, K. (2020). Polynesian Navigation & Settlement of the Pacific. World History Encyclopedia. Available online:–settlement-of-the-pacific/. Date accessed 6 March 2024.
  • Mihaere, S., Holman-Wharehoka, M., Mataroa, J., Kiddle, G.L., Pedersen Zari, M., Blaschke, P., & Bloomfield, S. (2024). Centring localised Indigenous concepts of wellbeing in urban nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation: case-studies from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Cook Islands. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 12, 1278235.
  • Nunn, P. D., Kumar, R., Barrowman, H. M., Chambers, L., Fifita, L., Gegeo, D., … & Waiwai, M. (2024). Traditional knowledge for climate resilience in the Pacific Islands. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, e882
  • Pedersen Zari, M., Kiddle, G. L., Blaschke, P., Gawler, S., & Loubser, D. (2019). Utilising nature-based solutions to increase resilience in Pacific Ocean Cities. Ecosystem Services, 38, 100968.
  • Pedersen Zari, M., MacKinnon, M., Varshney, K., & Bakshi, N. (2022). Regenerative living cities and the urban climate–biodiversity–wellbeing nexus. Nature Climate Change, 12(7), 601-604.
  • Ryks, J., Simmonds, N., and Whitehead, J. (2019). The health and wellbeing of urban Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand, in Vojnovic, I., Pearson, A.L., Gershim, A., Deverteuil, G., Allen, A., (eds). Handbook of Global Urban Health. Routledge: New York, pp. 283–96.Sangha, K.K., Preece, L., Villarreal-Rosas, J., Kegamba, J. J., Paudyal, K., Warmenhoven, T., et al. (2018). An ecosystem services framework to evaluate indigenous and local peoples’ connections with nature. Ecosyst. Serv. 31, 111–125.


This guide was written by Maibritt Pedersen Zari, Victoria Chanse; G. Luke Kiddle; Sibyl Bloomfield; Anita Latai-Niusulu; Mercia Abbott; Paul Blaschke; Sibyl Bloomfield; Shannon Mihaere; Oliver Brockie; Selina Ershadi; Madeleine Grimshaw; Amelia Platje; and Kamiya Varshney. Thanks to Research Assistants S. Wood and H. van Leur and to Graphic Designer A. Ockhuysen, and Web Developer N. Wijewardana.
Many thanks to the NUWAO Kāhui Advisory Board: Luamanuvao Dame W. Laban, L. Carter, R. Kiddle; A. Anitawaru Cole, D. Loubser, I. Puketapu, W. Missack, T. Bakineti and A. Latai-Niusulu for their guidance.
It is funded by a Royal Society of New Zealand, Marsden Grant, and by Auckland University of Technology and Victoria University of Wellington.

This guide introduction draws from Mihaere et al., (2024) and other NUWAO publications available here:

We acknowledge all NUWAO authors, past postgraduate students including J. Mataroa and M. Holman-Wharehoka, and researchers who have contributed in some way to the thinking in this guide. Finally thank you to the Indigenous and local peoples of Te Moananui Oceania that we have worked with in Samoa, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Aotearoa New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the Cook Islands. The generous sharing of your time, ideas, and knowledge is the basis of the thinking in this guide. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

Cite as: Pedersen Zari. M., V. Chanse; G.L Kiddle; S. Bloomfield; A. Latai-Niusulu; M. Abbott; P. Blaschke; S. Mihaere; O. Brockie; M. Grimshaw; A. Platje; K. Varshney; S. Ershadi (2024). NUWAO Nature-based Solutions Design Guide. Auckland: NUWAO. Available online at