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  • Waipunarangi is a whetū in the Matariki cluster. It is the star connected to the rains and other atmospheric conditions.

    Aotearoa New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ have produced Environment Aotearoa 2022 as part of its environmental reporting series. Environment Aotearoa 2022 has a unique approach that uses Te Kāhui o Matariki as the guiding framework for the report. Learn more about this approach in the article Environment Aotearoa 2022 – introduction.

    The mauri of Waipunarangi

    From a Māori perspective, the mauri of Waipunarangi is connected to the water that pools in the sky. As this water falls as rain, it connects Waipunarangi to the other whetū of Matariki. The rains nourish Papatūānuku, enhancing the mauri of Tupuānuku and Tupuārangi and flow through Waitī then into Waitā. A balance of water pools in the sky is important for supporting the balanced flow of mauri from Waipunarangi to the other whetū. If there is too much or too little rain, the effect of this imbalance is felt across te taiao. The mauri of each whetū is closely connected to the others through the waters of Waipunarangi.

    In Environment Aotearoa 2022, Waipunarangi represents what science tells us about the water (hydrological) cycle and climate. Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment has been shaped by climate – both the physical environment and the plants and animals that have adapted to life in particular locations. Climate has also shaped the human environment – from informing maramataka to the establishment of large-scale horticulture, meat and dairy farms, vineyards and plantation forests. As a nation that relies on primary production to support a substantial part of the economy, climate is important.

    Climate and ecosystems and habitats

    Weather is often variable, but there is evidence to show that the climate is changing. These changes can have multiple effects on plant and animal species and their interactions. For example:

    • changes in the timing and severity of frosts can create a mismatch between when plants flower and when their pollinators are active
    • warmer temperatures may lead to more male tuatara hatchlings than females
    • changes in temperature are linked to mast events, which lead to increased pest numbers and pose challenges to our native plants and animals
    • droughts or altered rainfall patterns can affect the habitats of taonga species like inanga, tuna and other freshwater fish.

    Climate and the economy

    The agriculture sector relies heavily on rainfall and is particularly vulnerable to the extremes of both high and low rainfall. Farmland is often located on fertile floodplains, so it is particularly exposed to flooding. However, drought events can have even greater impacts on the primary sector than floods. Droughts cause the soil to dry out and can lead to the loss of almost all of a farm’s profits. Due to its reliance on the natural environment, climate change poses risks for the agriculture sector – including risks to people’s wellbeing and mental health.

    Climate and mātauranga Māori

    Climate change poses significant challenges to mātauranga Māori. It threatens the loss of culturally significant land, taonga species, the timing and relationships in maramataka and resources affecting the perpetuity of mātauranga and tikanga Māori.

    The state of Waipunarangi

    Long-term weather information provides evidence of changes to rainfall and temperature. As the Earth warms, scientists expect that the frequency of extreme rainfall will increase. Changes in rainfall intensity and drought are mixed – increasing in some parts of Aotearoa while decreasing in others. Regarding temperature, climate models indicate we may experience more warm extremes and fewer cold extremes in the future. This in turn impacts our glaciers, which have decreased in volume.

    Working for change

    Climate change is a wicked problem – one way to overcome a sense of doom and gloom is through taking action. Action-related resources include:

    • Climate action – looks at climate change from global, national and individual perspectives and includes small actions that we can take to lead to larger change
    • Climate change – challenging conversations – uses concept cartoons to explore alternative conceptions, feelings and actions.

    Related content and activity ideas

    Climate change resources – planning pathways provides pedagogical hints and includes an interactive planner that groups Hub resources into key science and teaching concepts.

    Our atmosphere and climate – introduction curates climate change resources the Hub created to support Our atmosphere and climate 2020.

    Use Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ datasets, which were used to inform Environment Aotearoa 2022, to explore regional weather data and analyse climate data. The activities follow an inquiry-based approach.

    The Science Learning Hub team has curated a collection of resources to support Matariki and Environment Aotearoa 2022. This collection provides additional context and pedagogical insights. Log in to make this collection part of your private collection, just click on the copy icon. You can then add additional content and notes and make other changes.​​​​​

    Useful links

    Stats NZ and the Ministry for the Environment report on different aspects of Aotearoa’s environment every 6 months. Access their reports here.

    Our atmosphere and climate 2020 details how, why and what is happening to our climate and how the changing climate is beginning to affect the things we care about.

    Visit Stats NZ for more information on:


    This resource has been produced in collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ.

      Published 6 June 2022 Referencing Hub articles
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