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  • Milly Grant-Mackie is a coastal geomorphologist. Her work includes climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and whānau-level research.

    Rights: Milly Grant-Mackie

    Milly Grant-Mackie

    Milly Grant-Mackie (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa, Ngāpuhi) graduating with her Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the University of Auckland.

    He mihi

    Ko Milly tōku ingoa
    Nō Te Rarawa rāua ko Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa ahau

    Growing up as Māori living in the city, but having a strong connection back to my marae, it was kind of like I was living in two worlds. I could walk in two worlds. Knowing always that I was from my marae allowed me to be very confident in my Māoritanga, even though I wasn’t brought up in te ao Māori.

    Milly Grant-Mackie

    Using science to benefit Māori

    Milly grew up with an understanding of both scientific and Māori knowledge systems and sees science as a tool that can benefit Māori. Her research draws upon the physical sciences and is used to guide decisions about environmental changes. Her work has taken her to Hawaii to learn what Pacific peoples are doing in their response to climate change and how to share knowledge to be more resilient.

    Rights: Milly Grant-Mackie

    Presenting climate change mahi

    As a geomorphologist, Milly is interested in landforms and landscapes. Milly presented research data gathered from her whenua at an international conference.

    Milly wants rangatahi to know that, although studying science can seem hard, they can do it. Rangitahi don’t have to wait for a master’s degree to do the type of impactful research she is engaged in. Milly says they just need to have the right people and the right support. Milly’s friends, whānau and university colleagues have all been part of making the work she does possible.

    Milly’s advice is to study something that you care about, and she thinks that climate change is a good topic because it impacts all facets of our lives, including health. She believes that it’s important to know what might happen so we’re not blindsided by the changes.

    Rights: Milly Grant-Mackie

    Sea-level rise on whenua Māori

    These images are an example of one of the sea-level rise scenarios for Owhata that Milly made for her whānau. It shows where coastal inundation, due to sea-level rise, will impact her whenua comparing 2030 to 2150.

    Download a PDF of a series of images for a comparison over time.

    We’ve got to be proactive. We can see that with climate change, it’s already impacting people in the Pacific.

    Milly Grant-Mackie

    Researching sea-level rise

    To get answers for her community regarding future inundation of their whenua, Milly created a digital 3D elevation model. She modelled inundation using different sea-level rise scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which provides up-to-date sea-level rise projections. This enabled her to identify where the community is likely to lose land and which dwellings might be inundated under different scenarios.

    My marae has always had issues with environmental changes. When I got to a position where I could do my own research, I chose to look at something that was going to impact my marae, and sea-level rise was the most obvious.

    Milly Grant-Mackie

    Milly has also worked on mapping past coastal movement. The results from her research showed that, in one area, 54 metres of land had been lost from 1942 to the present day. This supported whānau knowledge and demonstrated how communities can access information for climate change action.

    We found that there was a lot of erosion, which had already been known. The importance of my research is I was able to put Pākehā terminology to the observations that my whānau had already experienced.

    Milly Grant-Mackie


    When Milly is looking for answers to her research questions, she is guided by both Western science and kaupapa Māori methodologies. As an indigenous person, Milly’s research brings together different disciplines and a lot of different people from different spaces. She sees this as a way of resisting the colonial system.

    My methodology comes from my values.

    Milly Grant-Mackie

    Milly has experienced a clash of two worlds and of two cultures, but because of her strong connection to her whānau and values, she feels she can be a protector of her whānau, her research and her whenua. She says she is using Western science institutions to help her people, but at the same time, she acknowledges that these institutions have not always helped Māori.

    Rights: Milly Grant-Mackie

    Milly and her whenua

    Milly uses indigenous knowledge and science to gain a better understanding of changes that have occurred on her whenua.

    Activism and climate change

    Milly champions the idea that we are active agents in our response to climate change rather than holding a colonial view that we are vulnerable. She says that, when we look at indigenous knowledges and their relationship to the environment and to climate change, we can see that indigenous peoples are active in the way that they respond.

    Milly sees her research as a form of protest and is determined that indigenous peoples are not going to just let climate change happen to them. She wants to see rangatahi given space to talk about what they need and what they want to secure for their future – the future for our people and of generations that come after.

    For a lot of Māori, they’re going to be impacted by climate change, different types of impacts. If we view ourselves as active agents to be more resilient to climate change, then it actually gives us hope. We have a strong connection with the environment and in turn a strong connection with climate change. We can do what we need to do. We’re the generation that needs to be sorting it out.

    Milly Grant-Mackie

    Collaborating with the Science Learning Hub

    As part of her work with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Milly collaborated with the Science Learning Hub and Te Kura o Manunui to create educational resources. The resources support Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa | New Zealand Garden Bird Survey and are designed for Māori-medium classrooms. You can find the introductory article here.

    Related content

    Climate change is a significant topic. These resources provide a helpful introduction:

    For more resources, check out the climate change topic and use the filters to narrow your search.

    Ancestral Māori adapted quickly in the face of rapid climate change – this article from The Conversation explains how radiocarbon dating was used to show how people adapted to past climate changes.

    Activity ideas

    Investigating sea level rise explores the different impacts of melting land ice and sea ice.

    Interpreting representations using climate data develops literacy and numeracy skills.

    Science and partnership with a Sāmoan village is a ready-to-use worksheet that explores future-proofing for natural disasters.

    Climate change – challenging conversations uses concept cartoons to consider various viewpoints and stimulate discussions.

    Ko e feliuliuaki ‘a e ‘ea – ko e talanoa fakakoloa also uses concept cartoons to consider various viewpoints and stimulate discussions – in Faka-Tonga.

    Listening to the land is a Connected article that explores how mātauranga from iwi and hapū is helping to understand climate change impacts.


    This resource has been produced in collaboration with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey.

    Rights: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

    Manaaki Whenua and New Zealand Garden Bird Survey

    Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research is a Crown research institute. Its core purpose is to drive innovation in the management of terrestrial biodiversity and land resources. One of the national projects it runs is the annual survey of garden birds Te Tatauranga o ngā Manu Māra o Aotearoa | New Zealand Garden Bird Survey. The data collected from citizen scientists helps researchers and practitioners understand how birds are coping with environmental challenges.

      Published 17 June 2024 Referencing Hub articles
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