News Blog

NUWAO to cohost an NbS side-event at the 4th Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference

April 2024

by Maibritt Pedersen Zari

We are happy to announce that NUWAO is joining forces with ICUN, SPREP and the KIWA initiative to cohost a pre-conference Talanoa/workshop on Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for climate adaptation and resilience in Oceania.  In our region, which is acutely threatened by the impacts of climate change and other shocks, there has been much recent interest in working with nature rather than against it to respond to these threats.  Nature supports the wellbeing of humans and other life, particularly if we respect it and learn to work with it.  In this workshop, we will explore the conceptual basis and implementation of NbS in our region within the context of international NbS work.  We will discuss how NbS are being progressed in Oceania, focusing especially on a series of guides and initiatives, and together we will identify and discuss potential next steps in the further strategic development and implementation of NbS in the region. Importantly, this Talanoa-style workshop will provide a rare opportunity for participants from around the region and beyond, to meet and talk in an informal and collegial style.

Time: Monday 20 May, 2024, 1300-1600 West Samoa (WST) time

Venue: Niule’a Seminar Room, National University of Samoa, Le Papaigalagala Campus, To’omatagi, Samoa

Register here 

The aims of the workshop are:

1. to review and discuss recent progress on NbS for climate adaptation and resilience in Oceania:

2. discuss the context for Oceania-based NbS work in relation to other international approaches and programmes;

3.  summarise and discuss new and recent Oceania-based NbS guides, standards and projects.

4.  to discuss strategic themes and next steps for the future development, mainstreaming, and implementation of NbS in Oceania.

5.  to meet and network among Oceania-based NbS practitioners and researchers.

Further enquiries to the workshop organisers are welcomed.  Please contact Dr Paul Blaschke (NUWAO);; or Vinay Singh (IUCN); or Mathilde Kraft (SPREP);

For further information on the 4th Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference 2024 and pre/post conference workshops (20-24 May, Apia, Samoa), visit

Sponsored by:  Nature-based Urban Design for Wellbeing and Adaptation in Oceania  (NUWAO), International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Oceania (IUCN Oceania), and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) –  Technical Assistance from the Kiwa Initiative.   

NUWAO podcast recognised

December 2023

by Maibritt Pedersen Zari

Maija Stephens was interviewed on Waatea News about the podcast series she has worked on with Mercia Abbott for NUWAO.

NUWAO at the Pacific Urban Forum, Suva

September 2023

by Luke Kiddle

Together with RMIT University in Australia, NUWAO (thanks Luke Kiddle) organised and led a session on ‘nature-based urban resilience’ at the Pacific Urban Forum (PUF) in early September in Suva. The PUF aims to elevate urban issues in policy. Central is responding to climate change for sustainable urbanisation. 

In addition to an overview of the NUWAO approach from Dr Kiddle, RMIT presented on their ongoing Nature-based Solutions (NbS) work in informal settlements in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Other presentations included the SPREP-implemented PEBACC+ project working to strengthen the resilience of ecosystems, economies and people in the region and IUCN’s work to contextualise the Global Standards for NbS to Oceania.  

The PUF Outcome Statement can be read here. And a reflective blog on the PUF by NUWAO team member Luke Kiddle here

Fiji, 2023, Photo by Maibritt Pedersen Zari

Call for papers: NUWAO’s own special journal issue

September 2023

by Maibritt Pedersen Zari

NUWAO’s Maibritt Pedersen Zari has teamed up Amanda Yates, both Associate Professors at AUT to guest edit a special issue of Science Direct’s new Nature-Based Solutions journal. The Special issues is titled:

Just, socio-ecological urban transformation: Nature-based Solutions and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

Converging ecological and climate emergencies mean that architectural, engineering and urban design practices must rapidly change. This transformation can be aided by integrated ecological regeneration approaches, as well as social justice-led wellbeing strategies, which are inherently interlinked both conceptually and in measurable, tangible practice. Such socio-ecological approaches are often found in Indigenous knowledge and practices. An urban agenda linking working with nature, traditional ecological knowledge, and wellbeing is needed. The special issue’s aim is to examine how traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) can drive or be applied to urban climate adaptation and urban wellbeing more broadly. We invite papers that provide an understanding of how Indigenous peoples perceive, approach, and value or critique of nature-based solutions and eco-relational practices and/or how this can inform transformative urban narratives and strategies.

Submission Deadline: Feb 14, 2024. You are invited to submit your manuscript at any time before the submission deadline. For any inquiries about the appropriateness of contribution topics, please contact Managing Guest Editor: Assoc. Prof. Maibritt Pedersen Zari.

No Article Processing charges if you contact us and get your paper in before the deadline.

Please pass this call through your networks!

NUWAO International Symposium on Nature-based Urban Climate Adaptation for Wellbeing a Success

August 2023

by Paul Blaschke and Maibritt Pedersen Zari

“Ecosystems are much more than an unchanging background to human endeavour”.

Albert Refiti, NUWAO Symposium, April 2023

Nearly 100 people coming from all over Aotearoa, as well as Oceania, Australia and even further afield, attended a successful NUWAO international symposium on Nature-based Urban Climate Adaptation for Wellbeing, which took place at the School of Architecture at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) between 20th and 22nd April 2023. 

Bridget Allan receives award from Zuleika Chang UNESCO, Abbott looks on

Dr Rebecca Kiddle presentation, day 1

The symposium enjoyed financial and in-kind support from the two hosting universities VUW and AUT University, and a wide range of sponsors and supporters including the NZ Commission for UNESCO, Resene Paints, Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Greater Wellington Regional Council, the People Cities and Nature Research Project, and the NUWAO project funders the Marsden Fund of Te Apārangi Royal Society of New Zealand.

The diversity of attenders and speakers was a strength, with, iwi and Pacific Indigenous people, community and NGO representatives, council staff, as well as researchers and students all present.  All participants enjoyed the diversity of the presentations as well, which covered ecological and social-science research through to case studies of initiatives with schools, and communities in various parts of the Pacific.

After a beautiful mihimihi, participants heard powerful messages and welcoming greetings from Luamanuvao Dame Dr Winnie Laban, VUW Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika), Mr Vaimu’a Muliava, New Caledonia Minister for Public Construction, Real Estate and Resources, Housing and Urban Planning, Mr Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu Minister for Climate Change Adaptation, and SPREP Director General Mr Sefanaia Nawadra.  These were followed by a fascinating first day keynote speech on the context for mātauranga and Indigenous knowledge-driven climate change adaptation and resilience in Oceania from Kara Puketapu-Dentice, Director of Economy and Development at Hutt City Council.

The second day design keynote panel, featuring leading design thinkers Derek Kawiti, Albert Refiti and Amanda Yates, chaired by Elisapeta Heta of Jasmax, was another highlight, discussing the many different concepts of adaptation and resilience expressed through design.

At the end of the day, an intense final open workshop featured short presentations and discussion about NUWAO’s Oceania Nature-based Solutions guide and a discussion of “where to with Oceania NbS and adaptation?”  Discussions validated the role of NbS as effective long-term approaches for climate change response, wellbeing and connection, if they are designed with Indigenous and/or local wellbeing at their core and founded on local cultural values and knowledges.  Other over-arching conclusions from this discussion included:

  • The underlying need for behaviour change towards less consumerism, and respect for the diversity, and meaning of the living world and Indigenous knowledge and practice in this regard.
  • Understanding of the importance of the interconnected relationships between people and nature in our region when engaging with NbS.
  • Acknowledgment of the inherently political and potentially spiritual nature of NbS in Oceania. Public policy is crucial to implementing NbS, so making sure there is understanding of this at national level government people is important.
  • The need for building more collaborations and capacity for NbS action in Oceania.

Jacqui Bowring, Bridget Allan and Alison Cole

Last session, day 2. NUWAO NbS guide

In between, there were many more highlights from the papers and session discussions than can be summarised here. Presentations will eventually be featured on our website. The NUWAO Design Competition exhibition and awards function complemented the rest of the symposium very successfully. Several speakers were interviewed during the Symposium for the NUWAO podcast and portrait series. Some of these sessions are now available for listening. These activities highlighted the role of visual art and sound to communicate with a wider audience about design for climate change adaptation.  Panel discussions on NUWAO urban case studies, NUWAO design competition winners’ approaches to adaptation and resilience design, and local government NbS implementation were all very informative and useful.

Local Government panellists, day 2

After the two days of symposium discussions, a field trip went by foot, cable car and bus along Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour), to the Fale Malae and Living Pa sustainable building projects, and finishing at te Māra a Tāne Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Despite poor weather, participants enjoyed seeing and discussing many buildings, structures and urban nature features within the city, and the natural beauty of Zealandia Ecosanctuary.  Also, the time together to further strengthen personal relationships was valuable.

Field trip day 3. Albert Refiti talking at the Fale Malae site

For the NUWAO research team, the symposium successfully brought further depth to our relationships to other programmes including IUCN Oceania’s  NbS work, the Pacific Community’s Kiwa Initiative, SPREP’s PEBACC+, and POCCA.  Good opportunities were identified to build on these relationships for collaborative work on the NUWAO database and guide, making sure that the different programmes and priorities are complementary.  The outcomes of this symposium will guide the team in our final intense year of completion and writing.  Recordings of talks and panel sessions will be available very shortly.

NUWAO goes to New Caledonia

July 2023

By Maibritt Pedersen Zari

NUWAO’s Maibritt Pedersen Zari has just returned from a research trip to New Caledonia. In collaboration with Associate Professor Amanda Yates of AUT’s School of Future Environments and her Mauri Ora Compass for Urban Regeneration project, the pair visited and held workshops in several Kanak communities in both urban and semi-urban settings in July 2023 to understand: Indigenous perspectives on relationships between people, land, ocean and the living world; what underpins Kanak wellbeing in relation to the built environment; and how these concepts do or could feed into transformative change. They also talked to social housing workers and youth workers. A report is now being worked on along with a journal article of findings. The project was in collaboration with the New Caledonian Government’s Construction Department and a larger ‘Oceanian Habitat’ project they are running. Thanks very much to Djamil Abdelaziz who invited NUWAO’s participation and hosted us.

COP26 and nature-based solutions: Continued injustice for Indigenous peoples

June 2022

By Alison Anitawaru Cole (South Taranaki Ngāruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, and Taranaki Whānui)

After COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland[1], it became clear that ‘nature-based solutions’ (NbS) are now seen by some as a Trojan horse of sorts, synonymous with false solutions to the climate crisis, meaning those that don’t actually address or challenge the underlying ways of thinking that have led to the climate crisis.[2] ‘Nature-based solutions’ are being deployed by some as the new weapon-of-choice in the arsenal of neo-colonialist tactics that underpin our carbon based economy.[3] Such a form of capitalist economy is problematic and best and disastrous at worst for many Indigenous peoples.[4]

The need for global systems revolution was never more palpable than at the COP26 negotiations consolidating the global market for trading carbon-credits.[5] The approach was to use a set of capitalist-based mechanisms which effectively allow richer countries to avoid the consequences of their unwillingness to reduce emissions locally, by offshore offsetting. Such an endeavour, allowing national governments, often largely non-indigenous, or corporate or individual owners to make money from so-called ‘nature-based solutions’ found for example in the carbon sequestration abilities of a forest, has the effect of commodifying Indigenous homelands. It transforms the forest into the vehicle for an extractive model of finance and is not a solution, particularly within Indigenous ways of seeing relationships between people and the living world. This kind of commodification model is a manifestation of the problematic thinking that has led us collectively into the climate and biodiversity crises. It creates problems that “will likely undermine indigenous peoples’ collective rights, including full ownership rights to land and natural resources and the right to self-determination.”[6]The negotiator for Bolivia, for example slammed nature-based solutions at COP26 saying that the final text “assumes that nature is only in service of people’s needs. But nature has an intrinsic value. It is sacred. That must be reflected. ‘Nature-based solutions’ was never negotiated here.”[7]

Many Indigenous groups and representatives at COP26 pointed out that the term ‘nature-based solutions’ does not mean the same thing to all people. When the term is used in relation to climate change mitigation in particular (i.e. carbon capture, storage, and other sequestration strategies), it becomes no longer nature-based but market-based. A forest no longer is a forest. No longer a home. No longer a source of the life-sustaining power of biodiversity. No longer a living entity. Now a forest is simply a carbon credit, a source of financial wealth. Something richer countries, corporations, or individual people can ‘buy’ in the process of sending offshore their negative externalities which are themselves a consequence of the broken economic capitalist system. This is absolutely the same thing as colonialism, which at its core, was and still is a capitalist economic venture, based on an imperial view of the globe, aiming to maximise extraction and exploitation of everything deemed a resource, including nature, people, and even concepts. It is this world view and the tangible consequences of it which have led to the interlinked climate and biodiversity crise; and it is exactly this system that can no longer be utilised if we humans are to sustain suitable living conditions for us and most of all other life on earth[8].

This is not to say that all nature-based solutions fall into this category. Despite the distortion of nature-based solutions through extractive neo-colonialist models and the hijacking of nature-based solutions during the COP26 negotiations on Article 6[9], there are positive examples of working with nature to adapt to climate change, and of Indigenous-led projects and ones undertaken in genuine partnership (see full report). A strong determinator of positive impacts is when nature-based solutions are community and/or Indigenous initiated and locally led and are participatory. By ensuring nature-based solutions are as close to nature as possible and are centred on human-nature relationships as determined by those who live with nature and protect ecologies, in-built processes can work to monitor whether nature-based projects effectively support or challenge neo-colonial carbon-capitalism.

Systemic revolution is a big challenge. Indigenous communities came together at Glasgow to demand a seat at the table, but instead Indigenous rights were moved out of the legally binding provisions and into the non-legally binding preamble.[10] Indigenous peoples were largely left with token gestures of “participation” relating to the mechanism of trading carbon credits.[11] In response, at COP26, Indigenous communities hosted several side-events highlighting the urgency needed to build financial infrastructure for direct payments to Indigenous communities, as opposed to State governments, in order to maintain true Indigenous guardianship over nature and to ensure the protection of Indigenous communities’ human rights.[12]

Over and above any financial remedies, Indigenous communities made it clear at COP26 that the urgency for “concrete measures” in relation to Indigenous rights, wellbeing and climate change has yet to be taken seriously.[13] Indigenous knowledge is increasingly leading innovative thought-leadership on building meaningful contributions to change.[14] It is certainly time for systematic analysis of Indigenous-led solutions [15] and world-wide systems revolution.

Inequity in power and privilege was evident around the exclusion of Indigenous and local communities from negotiations at COP26.[16] The climate injustice is established before COP even begins due to the inequality in access. The processes around attendance at COP are already heavily colonised and dominated by Western mechanisms that pose high barriers to entry such as the ability to finance travel to the venue. Even for those who surmounted barriers to access, the space for Indigenous participation at COP was largely reduced to tokenistic bureaucratic box-ticking. COP does not operate under majority vote like the UN General Assembly or the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of State Parties. It is a consensus model. Powerful countries can strong-arm their way to so-called consensus with the threat of their singular veto. COP26 did include a formal platform known as the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP), and its Facilitative Working Group.[17] This collective is comprised of both State and Indigenous-appointed representatives, and it does generate reports, but it is not permitted to negotiate any of the legal provisions at COP. This effectively renders it powerless. Equally troubling, this forum is anchored on an extractive dynamic, rather than one that is based on genuine relationship-building for mutual wellbeing. It is a colonial construct. For example, the terms of reference state that the LCIPP’s exists so that “through engaging directly with expert [Indigenous] knowledge holders during this meeting, parties [governments] can unlock sustainable and resilient ways to meet the Paris Agreement commitments and reverse biodiversity decline.”[18]

The problem with harvesting concepts from Indigenous peoples, is that the demand to share their knowledge is not matched by a respect for the knowledge holders, let alone genuine power-sharing partnerships. As Battiste and Henderson (2000)[19] point out: “The colonising peoples have done nothing to create trust or to build relationships with our [Indigenous] ecologies or with our knowledge… They have refused to have respectful relations with the forces of the ecologies… Now they are beginning to suffer the consequences implicit in their actions, and they look toward Indigenous peoples for help.” Rejection of a continuance of exploitative relationships was a recurring theme across Indigenous-led discussions at COP26.[20]

What played out at Glasgow, COP26, was nothing short of a global systems clash. The dominant neo-colonialist capitalist powers were challenged by Indigenous peoples and local communities disavowing the whole point of COP26, namely, the entrenchment of a carbon market. Brendan (2014) states: “[t]he pressures to divest Indigenous peoples of their lands in order to secure the benefits of this [carbon] trade are enormous.”[21] And yet, the legal process under COP is set up precisely to advance the views of the capitalist powerbrokers. The systems clash that played out at COP26 was actually a system capture which inevitably leads to the commoditisation of nature to maintain the status quo. Therein lies the ‘Trojan horse’.

We acknowledge Alison Anitawaru Cole (South Taranaki Ngāruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, and Taranaki Whānui), whose experience negotiating at COP26 as the representative for the Iwi Chairs Forum (the collective of Māori leaders who chair their respective legal entities established following grievance proceedings against the Crown) led to the writing of this article.

[1] COP26 was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, from 31 October to 13 November 2021.

[2] Gerretsen, I. ‘Nature-based solutions’ prove divisive at Glasgow climate talks. Climate Home News. 2021. Online: Date accessed: September 2022.

[3] Survival. Why nature-based solutions won’t solve the climate crisis – they’ll just make rich people even richer. Survival International. 2021. Online: Date accessed: September 2022.

Lakhini, N. ‘A continuation of colonialism’: Indigenous activists say their voices are missing at Cop26. The Guardian. 2021. Online: Date Accessed: September 2022.

[4] López, G. Reflections on disaster colonialism: Response to Yarimar Bonilla’s ‘The wait of disaster’, Political Geography, 78 (2020): 102170.

[5] Chandrasekhar, A. and Viglione, G. Q&A: Can ‘nature-based solutions’ help address climate change? 2021. CarbonBrief. Online: Date Accessed: September 2022.

[6] Abate, Randall S., and Elizabeth Ann. Kronk Warner. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples the Search for Legal Remedies. Northampton, Mass: E. Elgar Pub., 2013. Print. Chapter 7 Leonardo A. Crippa page 124

[7]Thanki, N. Twitter post. 2021. Online: Date Accessed: September 2022.

[8] Folke et al, Our Future in the Anthropocene Biosphere Ambio 2021, 50:834–869.

[9] Article 6 of the Paris Agreement established a framework for countries to trade mitigation outcomes to achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), using market mechanisms to incentivise cost effective reductions or removals of greenhouse gas emissions.

[10] International Indian Treaty Council. Combating the climate crisis, recognising indigenous peoples rights and knowledge. International Indian Treaty Council. 2021. Online: Date accessed September 2022.

[11]Johnston, A. Breaking Through Red Lines: Ways Forward for Loss and Damage in the Pacific. Oxfam Aotearoa: Auckland. 2021, page 20.

[12] For example, the event: A new vision of climate finance for indigenous peoples and local communities was organised by the Brazil climate action hub in November 2021 (

[13] Weston, P. Indigenous peoples to get $1.7bn in recognition of role in protecting forests. The Guardian. 2021. Online: Date accessed September 2022.

[14] Latulippe, N., and N. Klenk. Making room and moving over: knowledge co-production, Indigenous knowledge sovereignty and the politics of global environmental change decision-making. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 42 (2020): 7-14.

[15] Kiddle, G.L., et al. An Oceania urban design agenda linking ecosystem services, nature-based solutions, traditional ecological knowledge and wellbeing. Sustainability 13.22 (2021): 12660.

[16] Rashidi, P., Lyons, K., and Walker, K.J. Indigenous knowledge systems are vital to the design of solutions to climate change – so why are Indigenous voices so rarely included in deliberations? 2021. ABC News. Online: Date accessed: September 2022.

[17] United Nations Climate Change. COP26 Strengthens Role of Indigenous Experts and Stewardship of Nature.  United Nations Climate Change. 2021. Online: Date accessed September 2022.

[18] LCIPP. First annual gathering of knowledge holders. United Nations Climate Change. 2021. Online: Date accessed September 2022.

[19] Battiste, Marie, and James Youngblood (Sa’ke’j) Henderson. Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage: A Global Challenge. Saskatoon: UBC Press, 2000. Page 11

[20] There were also events specifically addressing this problem of exploitative NbS. See for example this event organised by COP Coalition 26: Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Nature-Based Solutions, November 7, 2021, Glasgow, UK. Date accessed: September 2022.

[21] Tobin, Brendan. Indigenous Peoples, Customary Law and Human Rights – Why Living Law Matters. London: Routledge, 2014. Web.138

[22] For more details of NUWAO and extended team biographies see:

NUWAO Masters Student back from Rarotonga field work

Sept 2022

By Jovaan Mataroa, Master of Architecture student, VUW, September 2, 2022.

Are (House) on the shore in Aitutaki, one of the outer islands

Kia Orana,

Over the past two months I was lucky enough to visit the Cook Islands to conduct some field work for my project. My thesis is set in Rarotonga and an important part of this trip was connecting back with my roots, with our Kuki Airani culture and values. While I was there experienced first-hand, a lot of the challenges that come with conducting ‘research’ in the Pacific, something which enabled a deeper understanding of my methodology, and the importance of local engagement when designing in Rarotonga. A highlight of my trip was the opportunity to create such meaningful connections within our community in Rarotonga. So many incredible humans were more than willing to share their opinions and knowledge and give their time to help me understand more about our people, our land and our culture.  

Having the chance to connect with our community, my genealogy, culture and environment was an incredible experience. It was filled with many trips up mountains, to reefs and within some of our traditional Are (houses). While I was there, Rarotonga had some massive king tides on a side of the island that is primarily untouched in these types of swells. To be on the island during this time was a very humbling experience, witnessing first-hand the power of Tangaroa. Thankfully, there were no fatal injuries because of these but many of the buildings along the shore didn’t fare as well. This event soon became a topic which enabled deeper conversations in my interview, regarding our current buildings and how they interact with our Moana. I think one of the most valuable pieces of knowledge that I gained while I was here is a deeper understanding of our traditional relationship with our environment. Everything is connected, with the individual making up one tiny part of a dynamic system which gives and takes throughout multiple ecosystems, communities, and our culture.

This trip to conduct interviews and community workshops was priceless, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have made these connections in our community.

Meitaki Maata to everyone that participated!

Community Workshop in Rarorotonga, August 2022
View from Raemaru