Using a board game to plan for a changing planet

Read the full story in Hakai Magazine.

Two kilometers inland from Hawke’s Bay on the North Island of New Zealand, a dark-red gate just off the highway marks the entrance to the Tangoio Marae. This marae (meeting place) is where a local Māori hapū (community) holds regular gatherings and ceremonies. The location seems perfect: surrounded by lush green hills, close to the city of Napier, and just a stone’s throw from the ocean. But there is one problem: the marae is at very high risk of flooding. The hapū of Tangoio Marae have a serious decision to make about this place that is so central to their community, and one of their decision-making tools is unorthodox: a board game.

Called Marae-opolythe Māori community designed the game in partnership with researchers from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) with the explicit goal of helping the hapū decide how to manage the flood risk to their marae. While the researchers from NIWA contributed scientific data about known flood risks and projected climate change effects, the hapū brought their own experiences and values to the table during game development brainstorming sessions.

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