Research and Design Team

Dr Maibritt PEDERSEN ZARI

Primary Research Investigator and Project Coordinator
Te Wānanga Aronui O Tāmaki Makau Rau, Auckland University of Technology, Aotearoa New Zealand

Tēnā koutou, I was born in and grew up in Kirikiriroa Hamilton and moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington to first study at, then work at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University, at the Wellington School of Architecture for many years. I am now based in Ranui in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and am an Associate Professor at AUT at Huri Te Ao Hoahoanga, the School of Future Environments. My family base is in Whaingaroa Raglan. My ancestry is a mixture of Danish on my paternal side and Scottish on my maternal side. My earliest ancestor to arrive in Aotearoa in 1882, was my Great Great Grandmother. She came from the Scottish highlands and was of the Clan Murray. My Danish grandparents are from Jutland and immigrated (separately) to New Zealand just before and after the Second World War. I am a mother of four. My children are Amdo Tibetans.

I have been lucky to travel a lot as an adult and have spent time living in parts of Asia, in particular India and Tibet. Living outside my own cultural context for periods has shaped my understanding of the world and helped me to appreciate that there are many ways to understand, experience, and value different aspects of life. In my youth I was involved in native forest activism in Aotearoa. This ignited a passion for ecological justice. As I learnt more about the relationship between colonisation and ecology I came to understand that ecological justice cannot be separated from social justice, at least in the part of the world I live in. In my early twenties I began the lifelong journey of learning about and attempting to practice decolonisation in Aotearoa and am grateful to mentors, teachers, and friends for setting me on this pathway of learning.

I am motivated by wanting to make our cities healthier and more just for people as well as the living ecologies we are a part of. My goal is to make sure that climate change adaptation (in the realm of the built environment) is approached not just through a technical lens, but also through a socio-cultural-ecological point of view, and that climate change adaptation does not perpetuate or become a new form of colonisation.

My research seeks to redefine sustainable architecture and urban design through emulating how ecosystems work, changing the goals from sustainable to regenerative development, and integrating complex social factors into living architectural and urban design. My current research explores how nature based solutions can be used to define ecological design in the urban built environment with particular regard to how climate change and continued loss of global biodiversity affects architecture and communities. My expertise include: design for urban biodiversity, urban ecosystem services, biophilic design, and biomimicry. My research team and I have recently been awarded a Marsden grant for the research project ‘NUWAO – Nature-based Urban design for Wellbeing and Adaptation in Oceania’. This builds upon previous work for SPREP in Vanuatu, and ‘Ocean Cities’ work for UNESCAP. I am author or co-author/editor of several books including Regenerative Urban Design and Ecosystem Biomimicry (2018), and Ecologies Design: Transforming Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism (2020). More about my publications (and free access) can be found here: www.mpedersenzari.webs.com.

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Mercia ABBOTT

Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu
Primary Research Investigator
Massey University and Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

Ngā mihi ki a koutou, my name is Mercia Abbott (nee Tawhiri-Kerr). I was born in Ōtautahi but grew up in Te Whanganui-a-Tara where I now live and work with my husband and two beautiful boys. I am of Māori descent with iwi and hapū affiliations to Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled around Europe, Asia and North America. I also lived in Italy for a year where I studied art and spent 4 months working in an orphanage in Nepal. Understanding different cultures, ways of life and environments has always fascinated me. I am a creative being that lives and breathes design so a natural fit for study came in the form of Spatial Design. Spatial design incorporates aspects of interior design, architecture, urban design, landscape design, art and visual technologies. Providing a diverse toolkit enabling the ability to make, imagine, alter, shape, visualise and communicate peoples experience, stories and lives.

I have been working in the design industry for 10+ years, firstly as a senior design tutor at Massey University, Toi whakaari and most recently as a teaching fellow at Victoria University. I have also worked in a professional capacity as an exhibition designer for Gibson Group, kitchen designer for Kitchen Studio and as an Interior Designer for my own practice M Darling Design. Recently I have gone back to complete my Masters which looks at weaving climate change science, ecologies and Mātauranga Māori through spatial constructs. This has been embedded into a project with the Deep South National Science Challenge to improve the resilience of the coastal environment of the Ōhau – Kuku – Waikawa coastline in Horowhenua, to the impacts of climate change, and to assist Māori in adapting to the rising seas, increased flooding and salinification. Investigating action orientated climate change transitions to water based land uses that enhance taonga species, namely tuna and inanga. Being involved in this mahi in all its forms continues my passion for working with people for people.

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Dr Paul BLASCHKE

Primary Research Investigator
Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

I was born and raised in Wellington, the son of German refugee parents, and have lived here much of my adult life. I have lived happily in other North Island cities, in Tonga and Germany, and travelled quite widely in the Pacific Islands and Europe, but Wellington, where I have always lived with a view of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, will always be my home. I live here with my partner Susan and we have two adult sons living in Aotearoa.

I’ve always been drawn to the natural world.  This led me from school to study botany, ecology and one of NZ’s first environmental studies papers at Auckland University, and later in landscape ecology and earth sciences for my PhD at Victoria University of Wellington.  Before my postgraduate studies, my first job was in land resource assessment for the former Water and Soil Conservation Organisation, which gave me a formative appreciation of catchments and working landscapes, as well as environmental protection needs. Later work brought knowledge in urban ecology, biodiversity conservation, sustainability and development issues.

I like taking the big picture view. Submissions on the development of the “old” Resource Management Act for the NZ Ecological Society, several years at the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and then contracting to the Department of Conservation on biodiversity and conservation policy, all developed my big picture, environmental systems view.  I have tried to bring this view to my private consulting work as well as to contract university teaching. Over the last 20 years I have worked as a wide-ranging independent environmental consultant and lectured in Environmental Studies and Environmental Health at VUW and Otago University, Wellington. I am now an Honorary Research Fellow at both universities. I regard myself as a “specialist generalist”, something akin to being an environmental General Practitioner.

Beginning with a formative year as a very young Volunteer Service Abroad teacher in Tonga, I’ve had the occasional opportunity to work and travel around Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the great Pacific Ocean. I’ve consulted on flood and landslide assessment in the Solomon Islands, advised on erosion and land management in Fiji and Solomon Islands, documented Pacific Island deforestation, and published an international review of mass movement impacts on land productivity. Since 2017 I’ve been involved with teams working on nature-based adaptation projects specifically in Vanuatu and more generally around Oceania, leading to current work on the NUWAO (Nature-based Urban design for Wellbeing and Adaptation in Oceania) project. I’ve been a Board member and Trustee of several NZ-based Pacific development organisations.

Now, nearing the end of my professional career, I still appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the urgent responses to our current climate crisis, with a view to the need for sustainable and equitable resource use and a Just Transition. I’ve seen the pitfalls of many expert-led projects and I’m now much more interested in co-design approaches.  I recognise the enormous reservoir of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Mātauranga Māori in our region, and the power of bringing together this traditional knowledge with western-grounded “scientific method” knowledge: my personal belief is that they complement and enhance each other.  As well as my work in NUWAO, I am a member of Mauri Tūhono, a group working to develop a new decolonised partnership between the people and the natural environment in the Wellington region.  Through my Progressive Jewish beliefs, I also have a strong involvement in bringing faith-based values into responses to current environmental crises.

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Sibyl BLOOMFIELD

Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngai Te Rangi
Primary Research Investigator
Te Wānanga Aronui O Tāmaki Makau Rau, Auckland University of Technology, Aotearoa New Zealand

Tēna koutou katoa. He uri tenei nō Ngati Pakehā, Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto, me Ngai Te Rangi hoki. I tipu ake au I raro I te maru o Rangitoto. No Tāmaki ahau. Kei Kaipātiki ahau e noho ana i tēnei wa. Ko Sibyl Bloomfield tōku ingoa. He Kaihoahoa me Kaiako whenua au.

I grew up under the shelter and protection of Rangitoto in Te Hau Kapua/Devonport, Tāmaki Mākaurau/Auckland, and spent much of my childhood exploring the coastal neighbourhoods beaches, islands, volcanoes, waterways and bays of Tīkapa Moana o Hauraki/Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour, and the beaches, dunes, coastal wetlands and hills of the Kapiti coast in Wellington. After moving to Wellington to study Interior Architecture and then Landscape Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, I worked in research and administrative support roles and taught in the Architecture and Landscape Architecture programmes. After completing my masters I returned to Auckland where I live and work, with my husband and 2 children. After some time in practice in Auckland I have been in academia both at Unitec in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture programme, and now at AUT in Huri Te Ao (The School of Future Environments) in the Architecture and Future Environments programme as a Senior Lecturer.

I hold a Masters in Landscape Architecture and Bachelor of Design from Victoria University of Wellington and have been teaching in Architecture and Landscape Architecture programmes for over 10 years. My teaching and research practice is grounded in a commitment to shaping our place in the world by engaging in Te Ao Māori, Te Moana nui a Kiwa identity and diversity and actively responding to the ecological, socio-cultural and climate crises of the Anthropocene. My research works to develop a deeper understanding of complex adaptive social-ecological systems, from individual community members to society, and the complex interlinking ecological systems, positions landscape architecture to lead the investigation into increasing the adaptive capacity of our cities and communities. With a particular interest in the significant role the coast plays in our Pacific cultures and identities and the impact of the over-development of these fragile transitional zones in our urban centres in our changing climate reality. Weaving western and Indigenous knowledge and using theories and principles from resilience thinking and Te Āo Māori as lenses of inquiry, and guidelines for redefining vulnerable coastal land, urban design and landscape architecture have the potential to facilitate and encourage positive interaction at the interface of the social and ecological systems within (vulnerable) coastal communities.

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Dr Victoria CHANSE

Primary Research Investigator
Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

I grew up in New York City in the United States but spent a great deal of time with my grandparents on their dairy farm. One half of my family is German American while the other half of my family is Chinese. My partner and I are very recent immigrants to Aotearoa. We live on the south coast of Wellington. 

Growing up in a bicultural family in a city with a lot of immigrant communities, I have been drawn to with different cultural communities and cultural contexts in planning and design. Growing up in a city, I was constantly on the lookout for finding natural spaces, urban nature and art. These interests led to pursuing work in sustainability and later degrees in ecology, environmental planning and landscape architecture. 

Earlier in my career, I began working with communities and other stakeholders to apply sustainability principles within planning and landscape architectural practice. My work as a community designer and planner is motivated by applying an evidence-based approach that draws from other disciplines such as restoration ecology, hydrology, public health, sociology and architecture. In the states, I developed long-term university-community partnerships as part of studio practice with students.

I have focused my research, teaching, and practice on solving problems associated with sea level rise, flooding, and stormwater. My motivations have been to work collaboratively across disciplines and with communities to develop local responsive designs that consider community needs and landscape changes under different scenarios of sea level rise and stormwater management. Past and current projects have faced critical environmental concerns: design and planning adaptations to sea level change, the use of green infrastructure in addressing stormwater issues, and engaging communities in addressing both equity and environmental problems.

I have received grant funding and published works on community-based approaches to stormwater management and community engagement around climate change. For more about my research and teaching, please refer to https://people.wgtn.ac.nz/victoria.chanse and to https://www.vchanse.com.

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Dr Gabriel Luke KIDDLE

Primary Research Investigator
Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand

I’m Pākehā, raised and schooled in Whakatū Nelson. I’ve also spent many years living, studying and working in Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. Te Waipounamu is home, and I’ve recently returned to Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington after five years of living rurally in the Motueka Valley. I’m a human geographer, but I’ve spent a large part of my career working in international development. I’m currently also teaching part-time at the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. My partner and I share care of our five school age kids.

Through my work in international development I’ve been lucky enough to spend considerable time living in, and learning from, Pacific island countries. I spent three years working for the New Zealand Aid Programme in Solomon Islands, where all three of my kids started school. I’ve also spent long periods in Fiji for research, including when the kids were very young. Solomon Islands and Fiji particularly are close to me, part of me and my family. It’s front and centre for me that Aotearoa and Pacific island nations are close, sharing historic and contemporary people-to-people links and Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean. This influences how I see our region; I see myself and my family as of the Pacific. 

My university teaching and research work has focused on urban issues (particularly informal settlements) in small islands, and resilience as urbanisation interfaces with climate change. I’m also interested in interpretations and models of wellbeing, however they are appropriate locally, as we all work together to make Aotearoa, Oceania, and our planet a better place for all. 

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Susana TAUA’A

Primary Research Investigator
National University of Samoa, Samoa

Susana Taua’a is an Associate Professor of Geography at the National University of Samoa in Apia. She teaches undergraduate  and post graduate  courses  in urban  and rural geography, coastal processes  and land management issues in the Pacific. Her research interests include the informal economy  and employment creation and prospects  for smallholder farming in the Pacific.
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Oliver Brockie

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Architecture & Future Environments, Te Wānanga Aronui O Tāmaki Makau Rau Auckland University of Technology

Growing up in Mahurangi, connection and care for the natural world started early for me, and I still acknowledge the important responsibility we have within Te Ao Marama, the natural world. I have recently completed a Bachelors Degree at the School of Architecture and Future Environments, Huri te Ao Hoahoanga, AUT, and practice as a designer and regenerative practitioner living below Maungawhau in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. As a Pakeha person in Aotearoa New Zealand, I strongly identify as Tangata Tiriti, and find a sense of belonging firmly in this place and the relationships that I build with its landscapes and communities. I feel that my role as Tanagata Tiriti is defined by the way in which my work can protect, repair, and regenerate. As a designer, I hope to build a practice that is critical, decolonised and collaborative. My areas of interest include alternative and collective architectural practice, place-making and sense of belonging in architecture, and the relationship between ecology and humans in architectural space. Outside of this, my work in regenerative agriculture actively reclaims organic resources, builds soil, plant, and human health, and works to support and champion regenerative food production.
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India Chenery

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Architectural Studies majoring in Interior Architecture and Graduate Diploma of Designed Environments majoring in Architecture, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, School of Architecture.

Kia ora. I am pākehā, born in Aotearoa.  I grew up in Ōtautahi on maunga Te Iringa o Kahukura with my two māmā and my tungāne māhanga.  My awa is Opawaho.  I moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara to study Architectural Studies. My love of architecture started in my whānau home on Te Iringa o Kahukura which was designed by Sir Miles Warren in the 60s.  I have been learning about Tikanga Māori since high school.  I’ve just finished my Graduate Diploma of Designed Environments majoring in Architecture.  I have a Bachelor of Architectural Studies majoring in Interior Architecture.  I am very passionate about sustainable design and design relating to Mātauranga Māori. 
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Louis Corbett

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Architecture & Future Environments, Te Wānanga Aronui O Tāmaki Makau Rau Auckland University of Technology

Kia Ora! My name is Louis Corbett, I am born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. I am currently working through my 5th year of Masters in Architecture at AUT where throughout my studies, there has been focus on nature-based solutions, and how these solutions can impact and be implemented into the urban environment today. My thesis will look to explore how physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially we use our built environment, and how Māori design principles can be embraced to create a holistic vision of design. 
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Samuel Dunstall

Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu
Research Assistant
Bachelors of Design (Hons), specialising in Spatial Design, Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, Wellington.

Ko Tongariro te maunga,
Ko Taupō te moana,
Ko Waikato te awa,
Ko Te Arawa te waka,
Ko Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu ōku iwi,
Ko Dunstall te whanau
Ko Samuel/ Hāmuera tōku ingoa
Nō Te Arawa ōku tīpuna
I tupu ake au i Taupō-nui-a-Tia
Ko Tongariro te maunga e karanga mai ana
Ko Waikato te awa e tārere mai ana
Kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara ahau e noho mai ana
Ko Samuel/Hāmuera tōku ingoa

In 2023 I completed my study towards a Bachelor of Design (Hons), specialising in Spatial Design at Toi Rauwhārangi, College of Creative Art, Massey University Wellington. My mahi centres around reclaiming Māori identity and re-indigenising the spaces we engage with. I do this by leading the design process through the Te Ao Māori worldview and allowing mātauranga Māori to inform how we design into the future,

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Dr Debbie Early

Consultant / Research Assistant
PhD, UEL, London.

Tēnā koutou, I have Celtic roots and currently live off-grid, with boat access only, in Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui, Aotearoa.

My background is in bio-medical science, I am also certified as a yoga and meditation teacher and in permaculture design. I have lived in 5 countries and travelled widely. These cultural experiences have shaped my understanding of the world helping me appreciate different worldviews, particularly in the context of healthcare and wellbeing.

A life-long learner, I have contributed to numerous health and environmental programs overseas and locally. Over the last 10 years, I have been a bridge-builder, involved with a number of interi-disciplinary and multi-cultural organisations to increase opportunities for diverse populations to connect with the natural world in a reciprocal relationship that benefits people and planet. 

I volunteer for several nature, education and history organisations and enjoy hiking, photography, drumming and reading.

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Selina Ershadi

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Arts with a major in Literature, University of Auckland. Master of Fine Arts, Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland, Aotearoa.

Kia ora, Salam. I was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa with my family as a child. I am an artist, filmmaker and writer interested in how experimental and poetic forms can explore and expand the possibilities and conventions of storytelling. Channelling Donna Harraway’s assertion that “it matters what stories tell stories”, my work circles the question of whose stories are told across the human and more-than-human, and importantly, how they are told. I received an MFA from Elam School of Fine Arts and a BA with a major in Literature from the University of Auckland. Alongside my artmaking, filmmaking and writing I teach at the School of Architecture and Future Environments, Huri te Ao Hoahoanga, AUT. 
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Madeline Grimshaw

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Architecture & Future Environments, Te Wānanga Aronui O Tāmaki Makau Rau Auckland University of Technology (completing 2023)
Bachelor of Communications (Journalism)

I was born in London and grew up in Tāmaki Makaurau. I have spent my adult life between the two cities, working in media for 5 years in London before returning to complete my Bachelor of Architecture in Aotearoa.

Journalism and Architecture might seem contrary, but to me they are both studies of people, stories and culture. Architecture shapes, and journalism investigates how we live in this world. Architecture fascinates the journalist and advocate in me, because our built environment has such enormous influence over whenua, communities and the future.

My motivation exists between these two practices and in a personal, unshakeable belief in equitable, fair societies. I’m interested in creating architecture that makes positive, tangible change on environmental and socio-cultural levels.

My ancestors came to Aotearoa from England one generation ago, and from Sweden and Germany generations before that. Despite my connection to England, New Zealand will always be the place I feel most connected to, the place I will always call home. I am currently working in an architectural practice in Tāmaki Makaurau and finishing my studies at Huri Te Ao, AUT. 

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Māia-te-oho Holman-Wharehoka

Te Āti Awa, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Moeahu, Ngāti Haupoto, Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue,  Ngāti Tunohopu
Research Assistant / Post-graduate Student
Bachelor of Building Science and Master of Architectural Science, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Architecture, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kia Ora, I am an architectural science student at Victoria University, currently working towards a Masters in Architectural Science majoring in sustainable engineering systems. My goals and aspirations involve encouraging and being involved in the evolvement of sustainable papakāinga. My passion lies with my people and the land from which I come from, which has made falling into this project exciting.
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Mitra Homolja

Audiovisual Producer and Editor
Master of Architecture (Prof), Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Architecture, Aotearoa New Zealand.

I grew up in Serbia and came to Aotearoa as a rangatahi (young person), spending a lot of my childhood in Te Awakairangi Lower Hutt. I identify as Tangata Tiriti (a person of the Treaty). My master’s research focused on exploring how architects and rangatahi can collaborate in the design of spaces to activate youth agency. I am passionate about storytelling and the power of audiovisual tools which enable storytelling. Recently, I became co-founder and director at Studio Tēpu, a consultancy and advocacy group which helps designers and communities develop custom processes that enable them to engage transformatively with design.
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Thomas Kiddle

Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi
Website Developer and Designer

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Jovaan Mataroa

Cook Island Māori, Ngāti Kahungunu
Post Graduate Student
Master of Architecture (Prof), Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Architecture, Aotearoa New Zealand.

My name is Jovaan Tumungaro Mataroa and I am of Cook Island Māori descent. Ngāti Kahungunu is my iwi and our Hapū is Heretaunga. My father’s whanau are from Rarotonga and our village is Arorangi. 

I am a fifth-year student at Victoria University, studying towards a Master of Architecture. My passion lies within sustainability and the communities that occupy these spaces. My studies in 2022 will explore how indigenous knowledge can enable socially and ecologically resilient architecture in the Cook Islands. I am excited to learn more about our cultural heritage throughout the process and work alongside NUWAO on this journey. 

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Pieta McAleer-Harding

Research Investigator
Master of Architectural (Prof), Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Architecture, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kia ora, I am a Pākehā, born in Aotearoa. My ancestors are Irish, English, and Scottish and I identify as Tangata Tiriti (a person of the treaty). I grew up in Ōtautahi with my whanau and then moved to Te Whanganui-a-tara to study at Te Herenga Waka in the School of Architecture. My Masters Thesis explored how community resilience could be improved through engaging with decolonisation efforts in both design practice and architecture outcome. It explored how Pākehā and Tauiwi (non-Māori) architects can better approach designing for the resilience of communities in Aotearoa. My major research driver is to ensure a well-designed built environment and the benefits considered architectural design will provide can be accessed by all communities. 
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Shannon Mihaere

Rangitāne o Tamaki nui a Rua (Ngāti Te Rangiwhaka-ewa), Ngāi tai ki tāmaki, Ngāti Porou (Te Whānau a Tuwhakairiora) 
Research Assistant
Working towards a Bachelor of Health Science and Bachelor of Law, Waipapa Taumata Rau Auckland University, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kia ora, I am working towards a Bachelor of Health Science and Bachelor of Law at Waipapa Taumata Rau (Auckland University). My overarching goal is to increase the positive health outcomes for whānau māori through rectifying aspects of the social determinants of health. My greatest joy is spending time with my whānau, attending whakapapa wananga, and discussing all things te ao māori. I am privileged that some of these interests are facilitated by being part of kaupapa such as this!
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Melanie Nelson

Te Reo Māori Translator
BA Māori and Environmental Studies, Graduate Te Panekiretanga o te Reo Māori: Institute of Excellence in the Māori Language. Currently enrolled in Masters of Māori Language Excellence

Melanie is a strategic cross-cultural consultant, mentor, writer and te reo Māori translator.
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Amelia Platje

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Landscape Architectural Studies, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, School of Architecture.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. I am a pākehā, born in Aoteroa. I grew up in Kirikiriroa surrounded by my dad’s pear orchard. Three years ago I moved to Te Whanganui-a-Tara to study landscape architecture at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. My interests through my studies have led to a more resilient and adaptive approach when designing for changing environments. My greatest joy is being with whanau and even better when it’s being outdoors
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Maija Stephens

Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rangi, Pākehā
Podcast Producer and Photographer
Bachelor of Design majoring in Photography with Honours. Massey University.

Kia ora, He uri ahau nō Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, me Rongomaiwahine. Ko Maija Stephens ahau. I grew up in Te Kuiti, my whānau are from Heretaunga and I am now based in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. I am entering my fourth year of study at Massey University’s Toi Rauwhārangi, College of Creative Arts. 

I am an emerging artist/photographer and my practice surrounds issues concerning Te Taiao (the environment), whakapapa, and my experience as a wahine Māori. I aim to decolonise the medium of photography itself through the way I wield the camera and by bringing visual precedence to complex concepts informed by mātauranga māori. This takes form in both conceptual, studio as well as documentary photography. More recently I have started getting into video and audio work and I have been the documentary photographer/videographer of a few indigenous-led research projects such as Te Waituhi ā Nuku: Drawing Ecologies, the Ātea Project and now, NUWAO. 

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Naakori Taniera

Research Investigator
Master of Architecture (prof), University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

I hold a Masters of Architecture (Prof.) degree from the University of Auckland. My thesis, titled “A Culture Without Land,” reflects my dedication to understanding the impact of climate change on Kiribati’s culture and identity. My architectural journey has been deeply influenced by my profound connection to my Kiribati culture; and a strong commitment to addressing climate change adaptation, all from a Kiribati perspective. I have also gained valuable experience as a Building Inspector for Auckland Council. In this capacity, I’ve accumulated valuable technical understanding of the building industry. My aspiration is to combine technical expertise with my inherent creative strength, to honour indigenous knowledge as a catalyst to drive solutions and influence constructive change in the built environment.

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Tetabo Teiwaki

Research and Fieldwork Assistant, Translator
Bachelor of Science majoring in environmental science and human and physical geography, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

My name is Tetabo Teiwaki, and I was born and raised in Kiribati. I grew up in an extended family. I have three sisters and two brothers and am the second last born.

I was fortunate to get a New Zealand Manaaki scholarship in 2018, where I pursued my undergraduate study for four years at Auckland university in Auckland, New Zealand – pioneering this in my family. My greater passion and interest in how climate change affects the pacific people allowed me to choose environmental science and human and physical geography as my majors during my university study. I completed my study and attained a bachelor’s degree at the end of 2022. Momentarily, I am assisting the National Climate Change Officer at the Office of the President in my home country Kiribati.

I am a friendly and sociable person who enjoys reading, meditation, watching movies and, spending time with my family and close friends in my free time.

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Dr Kamiya Varshney

Research Assistant
PhD, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Born in the vibrant and culturally rich land of India, I’ve cultivated a deep-rooted appreciation for the fusion of tradition and innovation. I have over 12 years of professional experience with multinational companies in project management, architecture, sustainability, and research and development, contributing to large-scale projects spanning commercial, institutional and residential developments. With a passion for regenerative architecture and a drive to create innovative and eco-conscious built environments, I pursued a PhD in Architecture at the Wellington School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington. My research interest includes regenerative design to address climate change and biodiversity loss, climate-responsive architecture, biodiverse built environment, urban regeneration, ecosystem-based design, policy review, urban resilience and adaptation, and design for human wellbeing.

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Heleen van Leur

Research Assistant
Bachelor of Science College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, studying towards a Master of Bio Inspired Innovation, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Kia ora. I was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Amersfoort, a relatively green, medium-sized city in which you can cycle everywhere. I have always loved spending time in nature, especially on the water. I completed a Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Sciences at Utrecht University. Although this was very interesting, I decided I wanted to shift my focus to the climate crisis and how design for humans and nature can be integrated with each other. Thus, I started my Masters in Bio Inspired Innovation. In this Master’s the focus is on learning from nature to create sustainable innovation. I came to Aotearoa to work with Maibritt Pedersen Zari to learn more about Nature-based Solutions and Indigenous knowledge in Oceania. I believe that there is a lot to be learnt from nature and traditional ecological knowledge and hope to apply this in my future work.
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Sam Wood

Tangata Whenua
Research Assistant
Bachelor of Arts (Ancient History); Bachelor of Laws; Master of Urban Planning (Prof), Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland.

Kia ora. I am a post-graduate student of mixed descent who is currently studying a Master of Urban Planning (Prof) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. I am passionate about the environment and our relationship with it – particularly exploring ways in which an eco-centric approach to climate change adaptive policies and design can be implemented holistically in practice.
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Grace Young

Ngati Hineuru
Graphic Designer
Bachelor in Design Innovation, Majoring in Communication Design, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, School of Design Innovation.

I am a student enrolled in my last year of University at Victoria University of Wellington. I am very passionate about design and one thing I find crucial within my role as a designer is using my skills for social change. I am so grateful that I was able to create the logo for NUWAO as I support the cause and their objectives as their project progresses. With use of my knowledge as tangata whenua, I created the NUWAO logo based on what unifies us within Oceania and how that can be visually explored.

Meaning of the NUWAO logo: Each of the components of the logo signify a different aspect of the NUWAO project. I wanted to utlise flora (kowhai leaves and hibiscus) in this logo in a way that symbolises nature and the unification of Aotearoa and the Pacific Islands. Water was a crucial component because it symbolises the ocean and how it connects Oceania. The ocean is important to NUWAO because of climate change adaptation. Lastly, the hands symbolise the centering of human wellbeing and cultural knowledge in relation to climate change adaptation work.

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Tuputau Lelaulu 

Research Investigator
PhD Candidate, Te Wānanga Aronui O Tāmaki Makau Rau Auckland University of Technology

Tuputau Lelaulu is a co-Founder and Director of MAU Studio, a design & development organisation that focuses on the intergenerational development of built and learning environments for Māori, Pasifika, and vulnerable communities. Alongside Albert Refiti, Tuputau is the Primary Investigator of Alalaga; a practice-led research and development project supported by Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities. He is also currently a PhD candidate and researcher in the Vā Moana group at AUT. Tuputau is passionate about working with indigenous and vulnerable communities across Moananui, particularly in assisting whaanau and community groups develop place-based and meaningful responses to their lived experience.  
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