WelCom August 2017: A film about climate change and the Pacific debuted at this year’s Palmerston North’s Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival in May. Six Pasifika Massey students from Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, shared personal stories about the devastating impacts of climate change on their homelands and families.
The Palmerston North Interfaith Group, Papaioea Pasifika Community Trust and Palmerston North City Environmental Trust, sponsored the screening and workshop, funded by the Palmerston North Diocese Catholic Charities Allocation Committee.
The students spoke of havoc in cities, small towns and villages, caused by tropical cyclones of increasing intensity. ‘Houses float in the sea as sea levels rise and sweep away what once was home’.
They have witnessed a loss of their island homelands that their cultural identity has depended on and a way of life nature has provided for. Sea water that seeps through soil makes it difficult to grow crops and drinking water is unsafe. They have seen islands disappear.
The students asked us as their neighbour: ‘Where will we go? How can we relocate dispossessed people? What policies and institutions will be put in place to resettle people who have lost their homeland?’
The forum looked at ways to support Pasifika communities at home and in Palmerston North as they face a bewilderingly uncertain future and asked, ‘What do Pasifika people need from us – the community of Palmerston North – as they struggle to live with climate-induced devastation?’
The forum resolved that the city council needs to take two issues on board as it plans for the future of Palmerston North: to make it possible for more Pasifika people to resettle in Palmerston North if they have to leave their island homelands; and our city needs to make lifestyle changes to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Mary Eastham and Bob Skipp
Mary Eastham and Bob Skipp are members of the Palmerston North City Interfaith Group.