The Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand

The Coromandel Peninsula (Coromandel), with a population of around 27,600, lies in the northeast of New Zealand’s North Island.

A panorama picture of a landscape: Rolling, dark green hills, green and brown grass, a beach and blue skies with white clouds
Kerstie van Zandvoort

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The Coromandel is New Zealand’s favourite holiday destination attracting about half a million visitors over the Christmas/New Year period alone. The region is characterised by beaches, clear waters, forest-clad hills and a feeling of remoteness and wilderness despite its proximity to the main centres of Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga. It is a largely rural area, where people are clustered into small towns, with a stark division between small, poor and predominantly Maori townships of long-term residents, like Manaia and Kennedy Bay, and rapidly growing affluent townships where the country’s highest number of holiday homes are located, like Whitianga. The people in these towns face the same climate hazards – coastal erosion and flooding, flash floods and slips – but are not equally vulnerable. 

People of the Coromandel, as elsewhere in New Zealand, draw on a portfolio of representations to navigate the seasons, from local and traditional knowledge to the scientific "seasonal summaries" prepared by the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere. But there is a growing gap between the expected seasons in the area, and the weather and natural phenomena experienced. Downscaled climate science for the northern North Island shows a general warming trend, with fewer frosts in winter and long hot summers that could increasingly bring droughts and wildfires, but also conversely, flash flooding and slips from extreme rainfall events. This is echoed in public debates in media, and in the personal stories of Coromandel residents: "Our frosts and winters have disappeared leaving us with relatively warm temperatures throughout the year.”

On-going research in the Coromandel hints at how changes to the changing seasons are having consequences in different institutions. Fishers have changed when and how they fish, with one noting: "There was almost no Snapper to be caught in summer. This changed around about 40 years ago. Now they are here all year round."

On the Coromandel Peninsula, the research team has been employing both a broad ethnographic study of the wider community’s seasonal cultures, and a targeted study of seasonal cultures in the following groups:

  • Koutunu Coastcare groups and their organizational partners including local government, local maori tribes and the Department of Conservation.
  • A primary school and a secondary school
  • An amateur creative writing group.

Ethnographic study is coming to an end in July 2022, and the aspiration is to hold workshops over the second half of 2022, or early 2023, to critically appraise the way groups calendars change.

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