The 2023 NUWAO International Symposium on Nature-based Urban Climate Adaptation for Wellbeing was held on the 20-22 April, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, School of Architecture, 139 Vivian Street, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

We invited researchers, design professionals, practitioners, university students, and the general public to participate in envisioning how to develop innovative nature-based urban design solutions, particularly those rooted in Indigenous knowledge, that support climate change adaptation and individual and community wellbeing. We provided on-line as well as in-person participation. 

The symposium included current research, case study examples, and practice related to nature-based solutions in Oceania.

To our knowledge this is the first international meeting specifically focused on design-led nature-based solutions to climate adaptation, wellbeing and resilience.  

This symposium highlighted Nature-based solutions work and practice where Indigenous knowledge is the driver or at the heart of projects. 

Local government panel
Design competition prize giving

Here is the original call for abstracts.

Image by Irina Macovei, Master of Architecture (professional), Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

Geographic scope

The geographic scope for the symposium was principally focused on urban areas of Oceania.

This map defines our understanding of ‘Oceania’ as the combined Pacific Island nations of Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia. Specifically, sites in the following countries: Aotearoa New Zealand, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rapanui, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna. We expect, however, that work and practice from other regions will be drawn on where this enriches the context for work in our region. 

Regions of Oceania. Source: Adapted from Australian National University (CC License).
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Symposium Aims 

1. Provide a platform for Oceania-wide discussion, talanoa and korero on nature-based knowledge and research on climate change adaptation.

2. Highlight nature-based research and practice where Indigenous knowledge, wellbeing and resilience are at the centre.

3. Explore design-focused adaptation responses to climate change, including showcasing NUWAO design competition winners.

4. Evaluate and extend existing understandings of the above issues and approaches by practitioners, students and others, to help lay a platform for future work and collaborations.

5. Progress towards agreed best practice processes of NbS climate adaptation with Indigenous wellbeing at the centre.

Symposium Themes

  • Opportunities and issues for an Indigenous knowledge-driven focus on climate change adaptation and resilience in Oceania
  • Oceania urban wellbeing and resilience frameworks
  • Implementing just, enabling, participatory and co-designed climate change adaptations
  • Design-led focus on climate change adaptation and resilience in Oceania -what could this look like?
  • Elements or examples for a design toolkit on nature-led climate change adaptation and resilience for Oceania urban areas


Printable Programme

Symposium Sessions – Recordings

We have high profile speakers, fascinating research and design presentations, panel discussions, workshops, and an awards ceremony and exhibition opening for the NUWAO Oceania Nature-based Urban Adaptation driven by Indigenous Knowledge Design Competition on the 20th of April. A representative of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO delivered the awards.

In additional to the formal symposium programme there was a casual social gathering on the 20th of April after the awards ceremony at Southern Cross Garden Bar and Restaurant at 6.30pm. There was also an optional field trip on the 22nd of April.

Selected Keynote Speakers

Kara Puketapu-Dentice
Director of Economy and Development
Hutt City Council

Te Āti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe

Kara has held various senior roles in the public service and private sector which have focused on improving outcomes for Māori. Kara holds a Masters of Planning and Resource Management (with distinction) from the University of Otago and since then has worked in the areas of strategy, policy, environmental management, housing and iwi governance. In 2015 Kara participated in the Asia Pacific Leadership Programme at the East West Center in Hawaii and later in 2019 was selected as an emerging leader to be a part of the Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leadership Forum held in Malaysia. Kara is currently the role of Director of Economy and Development at Hutt City Council. In this role he is responsible for housing, community assets and facilities, transport, urban development, business and economy as well as significant transformational projects such as ‘RiverLink’ which will be a game changer for the future growth and prosperity of Hutt City. Kara was born and raised in Wainuiomata and is of Te Āti Awa and Ngāi Tūhoe descent.
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Associate Professor Amanda Yates
Auckland University of Technology

Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Aitanga a Mahakai, Rongowhakaata

Amanda works with Councils, Iwi and communities exploring place-based indigenous-led strategies and actions for holistic urban wellbeing in an era of climate and biodiversity emergency. Amanda is an Associate Professor and director of He Puna Ora, the Regenerative Urbanism Wellbeing Lab at AUT’s Huri te Ao, the School of Future Environments. She is Programme Leader for Huritanga, the Urban Wellbeing programme funded by the National Science Building Better Homes Towns and Cities Challenge.
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Leali’ifano Dr Albert Refiti
Auckland University of Technology

Associate Professor Albert Refiti is a research leader in the field of Pacific spatial and architectural environment with an extensive research and publication in the area, supported by his teaching and lecturing in the last 15 years. Albert has worked in architectural practice in Auckland and London. He has lectured in history of art and architecture and related fields at the University of Auckland School of Architecture, Unitec School of Architecture and Manukau School of Visual Arts. Albert has served on a number of community and academic boards relating to Pacific culture, art and education. Albert has written a number of book chapters, journal and conference papers on indigenous spatial and environmental knowledge relating to the identity formation of people and communities in the Asia Pacific region. His current research is on Pacific concepts of space – how they are formulated and enacted, the aim which is to find out how this understanding might play a role in rethinking the ways that Pacific people can create new modes of working and creating new notions of place and citizenship in the diaspora towards a Pacific cosmopolitic.
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Professor Derek Kawiti
Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāpuhi

Derek is a Professor of Architecture specialising in Māori Designed Environments and the application of contemporary manufacturing technologies and automation in architecture. An expert and teacher in advanced digital tools (generative software) and robotics, he heads SITUA (Site of Indigenous Technologies Understanding Alliance), Indigenous Material Domains (IMD) and Corporate Spheres ‐ Indigenous Workspaces. The labs play a significant role in the ‘re‐indigenising’ of architectural knowledge through a renewed exploration of customary methods of spatial organisation (tikanga/kawa), engineered structures and patterns, Māori geometries and materials utilising computation and digital fabrication. Derek is a Principal Investigator and is a member of the Science Executive for the MacDiarmid Institute. He is also a researcher with the Robinson Space Program. As an architectural practitioner Derek is a director of interdisciplinary architectural design firm, CILOARC, and is an associate director at Peddle Thorp Architects in Auckland where he is cultural and digital lead on a range of civic and government projects. He has more than 25 years’ experience in both commercial and domestic scale architecture having worked in both New Zealand and international practice environments including London, the Caribbean and Italy. He has extensive experience as a cultural strategist and design advisor to major companies in the building industry and works with various architectural practices both locally and internationally on project bid strategy. His academic research, teaching and practice orientation all draw influences from his cultural heritage where a central concern is with understanding the implications of the growing use of digital design technologies in architecture and its increasing convergence with aspects of Indigenous customary knowledge.
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Field trip (Saturday 22nd April)

We offered an exciting optional addition to the symposium programme: a (mainly) walking field inspection of highlights of our fascinating and beautiful Wellington City (Te Whanganui-a-Tara). Guided by experts who really know and love the city, explore the natural and cultural diversity of the city, and see and discuss the opportunities and challenges for climate change response and resilience.  The tour included:

  • Walking through selected city streets and along the beautiful Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) waterfront, including the site of the proposed Pasifika Fale Malae.
  • Riding the famous 120-year old Wellington Cable Car.
  • Viewing construction of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington’s Living Building Challange Living Pā project.
  • A guided tour or self-guided walk around Wellington’s ground-breaking eco-sanctuary Zealandia Te Mara a Tane.
Albert Refiti talking about the Fale Malae project on-site during the NUWAO field trip

Important additional details about the field trip

For an introduction to many of the things we saw, visit the Wellington Nature in the City interactive map.

Registration, Fees, and Accommodation


Our aim has been to keep fees as low as possible. There is no profit being made on the Symposium; we are just covering costs. Let us know if you would like to help with sponsorship of the event, or scholarships for attendees.

Fee categoryEarly Bird Fee $NZ
(up to 22 March 2023)
Full fee $NZ
(after March 22 2023)
Full (professional)    in-person$260$320
Unwaged/community/student in-person$120$180
Full (professional)    online$100$150
Unwaged/community/student online$30$50
If the fee is a barrier to your participation please get in touch: We will provide a limited number of scholarships / reductions.

We are looking into travel support options for Pacific peoples. You may want to apply for travel support through the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade ‘Collaborate Pacific‘ fund if you are a Pacific Island citizen (by February 2023 at the latest).


We have collected some options for accommodation, mainly near the symposium venue, which we recommend booking as soon as possible to ensure availability and lower prices.

Note: Rooms are not being held – These rates are only estimated and we would advise that if you require accommodation to book in advance and as soon as possible. Otherwise, room availability and the estimated price range may differ from those below.

Option 1: Naumi Hotel (Recommended)

10 Dunlop Terrace, Te Aro, Wellington 6011 (1-minute walk from the venue)

The Naumi studio hotel, immediately adjacent to the symposium venue can be booked using the VUW deal on offer for bookings made before 1 April 2023. To use this VUW deal use code ‘NUWAO’

Option 2: The Marion Hostel

13 Marion Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011 (5-minute walk to the venue)

Room options include double rooms, twin rooms, and shared dorm rooms

Estimated prices range from $34 to $110

Option 3: The Marksman Motor Inn

40/44 Sussex Street, Mount Cook, Wellington 6021 (10-minute walk from the venue)

Room options: Studios, one-bedroom units and two-bedroom units; off-street parking may be available – enquire on booking.

Estimated price range from $160 to $240

Option 4: Airport Motel

142 Tirangi Road, Rongotai, Wellington 6022 (on Lyall Bay foreshore adjacent to Wellington Airport, 8km from CBD; nearby bus service #3 is available)

Room options include traveller and family studios and units; off-street parking may be available – enquire on booking. Estimated price range from $129 to $209

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Climate Change principles and travel offsets

We are very conscious of the carbon-emission implications of an in-person international gathering during our climate crisis, especially one centred on a region as vulnerable to climate impacts as ours.  Although we think it is necessary for our symposium to be primarily face-to-face, we are determined to minimise our carbon emissions, especially those associated with air travel, and to offset what can’t be avoided. 

We encourage all intending participants to factor carbon offset costs into their travel budgets. We have teamed up with the respected New Zealand environmental consultancy Ekos to offer options for doing just this.  We are also reducing emissions through other aspects of the symposium, for example in offering only vegetarian food in our catering options.

Through Ekos we suggest three options for travel-related carbon offsetting:

  1. Use Ekos’ individual measurement and offsetting calculator to measure your flight or driving emissions in getting to Wellington for the symposium. Follow through the steps in the tool to calculate your flight or driving emissions (accommodation and other emissions can be included too), and this will take you through to a calculated total amount to pay to partially or fully offset those emissions through purchasing certified forest carbon credits from Ekos’ supply chain of permanent restorative forest carbon projects. Participants in this option will receive an Ekos Carbon Friendly certificate.
  2. If you can’t afford the cost of even partial offsetting or simply prefer to make a donation to a carbon-related forest conservation project, this can be done through Ekos’ donation page.  Project donations (any amount can be chosen) contribute to the non-commercial costs of the chosen project, such as conservation management, pest control, and accreditation and are highly valued. Donations are not purchases of carbon credits. You can select which forest project you wish to support with your donation. 
  3. Work through Ekos’ Carbon Friendly certification process to measure, offset and certify full travel offsets. This tool is primarily for organisations wishing to offset their attendee’s travel. This could be done through Ekos’ quick, affordable online business-calculator tool or by directly working with the carbon management team (contact is in the online business calculator tool).
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For further information on organisation certification and other enquiries please contact

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Thanks to our Symposium Sponsors (below) and to our Design Competition Sponsors for the Symposium Exhibition