Whakarewarewa: Maui.Tech case study

An iwi/Māori-led climate change case study, produced as part of the Maui.Tech project

Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust: Ngā Waikoropupū

This video case study from the rohe of Waiariki / Te Arawa Waka shares insights from Whakarewarewa, a Māori village in Rotorua known for its geothermal pools that are not only a source of cultural significance but also have medicinal properties. However, climate change is threatening this unique environment, and there is concern that some pools may dry up within generations.

Participants in this video discuss the need for great equity for Māori community and access to critical resources. They express the desire for a more significant role in decision-making, research, education, and health, emphasising the importance of involving the local community in environmental management and decision-making.

This video case study was produced as part of the Maui.Tech project. Read more about Maui.Tech.


  • Mike Gibbons (Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, Ngāti Maniapoto o Waikato) – former General Manager of Whakarewarewa Living Village Trust (Nov 2020–Sep 2022)
  • James Warbrick (Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao) – Chair, Whakarewarewa Living Village Trust
  • Karen Walmsley (Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao) – Whakarewarewa uri and Tūhourangi Tribal Authority
  • Ngarepo Eparaima (Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao) – Tūhourangi Tribal Authority Pou Whakahaere
  • Christina Gardiner (Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao) – Guide, Whakarewarewa Living Village Trust

Click to read transcript

Trevor Moeke [Narrator]  00:12 
Welcome to Whakarewarewa, Aotearoa's only living Māori village. Located in Rotorua, it's home to Tūhourangi and Ngāti Wāhiao, who have been sharing their unique geothermal waters with visitors from all over the globe for over 200 years. For locals, they're celebrated as Wai Ariki – godly waters from heaven and earth.  

Ngarepo Eparaina  00:43 
A lot of the pools here have medicinal purposes, you know. They're healing pools. Not only because they're warm, but in some of them there's some minerals within the pools that actually can help out at different times, for different things. The people here knew which pools were which, and we utilize them accordingly. 

James Warbrick  01:06 
Some of our nannies in there, or our kuia, can actually see different signs, behaviors, change, and they can predict different things that’s happening around the other side of the world. It’s a bit hard to believe, but those predictions come true. 

Trevor Moeke  01:27 
One of those kuia is Nanny Chris, the oldest legacy guide and resident of the village. 

Christina Gardiner  01:35 
The ngāwhā's [geothermal springs, mud pools, geysers] have names just like anyone else. It's a living breathing element. Any name has a meaning, and everything has a life. Whether it's life like ours, or an element. So it should be respected, not just used and abused, but respected. 

Trevor Moeke  01:58 
Reading the tohu [signs] of these sacred pools daily, Nanny Chris predicts the climate change could see some of them run dry within a few generations. 

Christina Gardiner  02:09 
It's already started. Parekōhuru [the largest ngāwhā in the village]. Rippling like that. It's trying to say something. Something's going on. Mother Earth is being abused, left, right and center. All for money. It's all called greed. 

Ngarepo Eparaina  02:29 
Times have changed. Things have changed. Climate change has caused things to be different. So the mātauranga would be different. The two major geysers here, Ki Wairoa and Waikete, they no longer exist.  

The ones in the village here, because they see the pool every day, they see the change. They, then as soon as they see that, they say, oh, something, something's happened somewhere, or something, something's coming. 

Trevor Moeke  02:58 
The loss of this geothermal wonderland, which has hosted hundreds of whanau over the years, is now a top concern for Whakarewarewa Village Trustees. 

James Warbrick  03:09 
We will be devastated. Those taonga stories, that come with those taonga, the history, we treat them as if they're a living, a living being. 

Karen Walmsley  03:24 
Anything that impacts our environment, and climate change I would see as been one of those things, are going to affect our life. Our way of being both past, present and into the future for us. The impacts of that changes the way we are with each other. It's taken us this long to really accept, if you like, that this is probably not going to go away. 

Trevor Moeke  03:54 
Faced with the daunting future of a changing climate, Chief Executive of Whakarewarewa tourism operations, Mike Gibbons, is leading work on the Trust's climate response. 

Mike Gibbons  04:09 
I've been in the tourism industry for nearly 30 years now. And I've seen the pressures that tourism brings on our whenua. You don't realize it at the time, but if you take a photo on any one key tourism experience here in Rotorua, if you took a photo every five years, you would see the dramatic change in the landscape. And that is our flora and fauna disappearing. All of that is part of the climate change challenges that we face. 

Trevor Moeke  04:39 
Through its new climate research program, the Trust has its sights set on moving beyond just tourism. 

Mike Gibbons  04:46 
There was a couple of things that COVID made us think about, as a Board and a Trust, and that was the sustainability. Whether that was our environment, and the impacts of climate change, or whether that was from a visitor experience point of view, or even asset protection point of view, because we realized very early on that, you know, 96% of our our manuhiri were from overseas international visitors. So only 4% of all of our market was domestic. So we had to really think deep about what the future would be like, and not having to rely just on tourism. 

Trevor Moeke  05:24 
The opportunities are endless. But greater equity for Māori, and access to critical resources, are sorely needed. 

Mike Gibbons  05:35 
I've seen written into the government funding that 5% be allocated to Iwi. I'm thinking "where the hell is that 5%?" 

Karen Walmsley  05:47 
Equity for me, in that context, whether it be in economics or socially, physically, well being, it has to come home to roost at the place that you're wanting to improve. 

Mike Gibbons  06:05 
We've already been disadvantaged, because to me, whether it's anything to do with conservation, anything to do with science, research, education, health, there should be a 50% partnership in place – mandatory. There should be something drawn within that, that allows Iwi to participate on a 50% basis as a minimum. 

Karen Walmsley  06:26 
We have to make the decisions within our village, within our hapū what's best for us. So I would like to see government create situations, opportunities, for us to be heard, and be taken seriously, that we're – and trust us to know our environment.