The Institute for Climate and Peace Embarks on a Collaborative Journey to Aotearoa New Zealand

Institute for Climate and Peace
11 min readJul 10, 2023


This May, a group of ICP’s team and Board traveled to Aotearoa New Zealand to launch the Institute’s Pacific Partnership Hub. The experience was grounded in cultivating, contextualizing, and reawakening ICP’s collaborations, understandings, and mission in Aotearoa.

Healani Goo and Kealoha Fox

ICP in Aotearoa (May 2023)

The Pacific Partnership Hub

In 2019, the leadership team at the Institute for Climate and Peace (ICP) traveled to Aotearoa New Zealand and collaborated with communities in Tāmaki (Auckland), Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington), and Ōtautahi (Christchurch). We began our partnership with Kara Puketapu-Dentice of the Waiwhetu Marae of the Te Ātiawa iwi (tribe) in Lower Hutt, with an invitation to return to Aotearoa with a more ambitious and impactful collaboration plan between his iwi, Marae (Waiwhetu) and our team.

During this time, Maya Soetoro (Co-Founder), Zelda Keller (Managing Director), and Maxine Burkett (Co-Founder) became esteemed Edmund Hillary Fellows joining a network of 500+ global changemakers committed to Aotearoa as a basecamp for global impact. Building on the experience and success of the 2019 trip, and association with Te Ātiawa iwi and the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, ICP developed an Aoteatoa-based sister hub for learning and exchange between Hawaiʻi, other Pacific island nations, and the rest of the world.

ICP’s vision for the Pacific Partnership Hub is to amplify the sharing of climate information generated in the region, models of positive peacebuilding, and Indigenous wisdom between the Pacific populations in Hawaiʻi and Aotearoa to catalyze climate-resilience and peace in the Pacific region and beyond. The Pacific Partnership Hub will be an extension of ICP’s values, expertise, and mission, while actively working to seek a deeper understanding of the Indigenous worldviews and the methods of positive peacebuilding that enable local families and communities to thrive and flourish in Aotearoa and the wider Pacific.

ICP’s Visit to Aotearoa

This May, ICP embarked on a place-based journey to Aotearoa New Zealand, building off of the existing collaborations that paved the way for this period of work in the country, to further our relationships, understandings, and mission in Aotearoa.

The visit was intentionally crafted to ensure a well-rounded experience, grounded in:

  • Contextualizing ICP values, programs, and changemaking work within Aotearoa’s ecosystems;
  • Cultivating authentic and trusting relationships with climate and peace practitioners, and identifying resourced pathways to broaden ICP’s work and effect change;
  • Reawakening connections between the Board and ICP’s portfolio by offering heart-led opportunities to interact, invest, and sow fresh seeds connected to the work; and
  • Building positive peace in a changing climate by providing critical information, spaces for collaboration, and frameworks for transformative policy.

This exchange experience prioritized learning and exchange, building relationships to the environment, cultural humility, deepening connections to place and community, collaboration and partnership, and opportunities for visibility. Furthermore, it served as an opportunity for deeper board governance and relationship building within the ICP core team to lead an Institute which is values-driven, women-led, environmentally conscious, and sustainable to achieve ICP’s mission and vision.

ICP Traveling Team (2023)

Traveling team:

  • Maya Soetoro, Co-Founder
  • Kealoha Fox, President & Senior Advisor
  • Zelda Keller, Managing Director
  • Amanda Ellis, Board Member
  • Patricia Halagao, Board Member
  • Healani Goo, Analyst & Trip Lead

During the visit, our team was involved in numerous engagements. We collaborated with women and gender inclusion specialists, young people, community leaders, and climate and peace practitioners from various organizations. ICP found immense value in these interactions, as we explored different perspectives, shared knowledge, and fostered meaningful connections with community members across Aotearoa.

Global Women

In Tāmaki (Auckland), ICP formed a close partnership with Global Women New Zealand, where our Co-Founder Maya Soetoro participated in Global Women’s annual hui. She also served as a keynote speaker for Global Women’s event: “Leading at the Crossroads: Equitable Futures for Indigenous Women and Women of Color”, engaging international and local perspectives on how to shift the dial for Māori wāhine, women of color, and Indigenous women.

“It’s with great excitement that we bring together the wisdom of Maya Soetoro-Ng and that of local speakers representing a range of backgrounds, industries and perspectives… We know it’ll be the kind of discussion that no matter what culture, organization, background, or level of expertise you come from, there will be a pearl of wisdom to take with you.” — Global Women

From Ideas to Action: Driving Positive Sustainable Change

Also in Tāmaki (Auckland), ICP Co-Founder, Maya Soetoro and ICP Board Member, Amanda Ellis were featured at a panel event: “From Ideas to Action: Driving Positive Sustainable Change” alongside James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change of New Zealand. This collaborative event, made possible by Valocity Global and other local businesses in Aotearoa, holds great significance in addressing the pressing challenges of climate change and illuminating the avenues forward. Notably, the proceeds from this event were dedicated to empowering and uplifting young Pacific voices, and ensuring their representation, participation, and influence at COP28 later this year.

Amanda Ellis, Maya Soetoro, James Shaw, and Carmen Vicelich (2023)

Aoraki Mount Cook

On an excursion to Aoraki (Mount Cook) on Aotearoa’s Te Wai Pounamu (South Island), our team focused on relationship building with the physical environment, practiced cultural humility, and strengthened connections to places impacted by changing climates. Here, we spent time at the Haupapa-Tasman Glacier, Lake Takapō, and at the base of Aoraki.

Kealoha Fox, Healani Goo, Maya Soetoro, Zelda Keller, Patricia Halagao, and Marianne Gilchrist (2023)

During the visit we were able to witness the alarming impact of the receding Haupapa-Tasman Glacier, where it is now approximately 23/23.5 kilometers long and 600 meters deep, at its deepest point. By 2027, the Haupapa-Tasman Glacier — Aotearoa’s largest and longest glacier — is expected to be just 20 kilometers in length, melting and calving between 480 and 820 meters annually or 1–2 meters per day.

With the effects of global warming and other climatic processes taking their toll on New Zealand glaciers, their retreat is sadly imminent. In the next decade, 40% of these glaciers are predicted to disappear as the health of these glaciers continues to decline.

Haupapa-Tasman Glacier, Aoraki Mount Cook (2023)

The melting ice and receding contours served as reminders of the ecological imbalance we face. A stark reminder that our actions today shape the destiny of future generations. This powerful experience reinforced ICP’s dedication to addressing climate change and its ramifications on peace and stability worldwide.

Climate and Peace Salon @ Mangaroa Farms

ICP organized a climate and peace “talk story” salon, bringing together local and global climate and peace practitioners at Mangaroa Farms — a community food hub and resilience education center located in Te Awa Kairangi / the Hutt Valley water catchment in Upper Hutt, Wellington. Cultivated through generations of cultures creating togetherness in Hawai‘i, the ubiquitous phrase “talk story” refers to casual, social, and conversational exchanges. It appreciates that informal gatherings, close listening, and storytelling are powerful ways to build community between island peoples.

This warm and vibrant gathering catalyzed stimulating discussions and knowledge sharing, and fostered collaborations among like-minded individuals and organizations devoted to combating climate change and promoting peace. The diverse group of Edmund Hillary Fellows, community members, and students in attendance made for an intimate atmosphere where stories were shared and the foundations for trust and kinship were established.

Climate and Peace Talk Story Salon, Mangaroa Farms (2023)

Ūawa Tolaga Bay Field Visit

On the East coast of Aotearoa’s Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island), ICP embarked on a place-based experience at Ūawa (Tolaga Bay), in collaboration with Tolaga Bay Innovation — a charitable organization, led by Edmund Hillary Fellow Lily Stender, dedicated to enhancing social and economic conditions in the Te Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) region.

Through this partnership, sowed through the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, our team was ceremonially welcomed through a pōwhiri to the Hauiti Marae and gained profound knowledge about the culture and landscape in the region.

Hauiti Marae, Ūawa Tolaga Bay (2023)

We had the opportunity to spend time in the community and environment, and were able to witness the first hand effects of both natural and manmade disasters. Our group gained valuable insights into the intersection of climate change and forestry management — twinned threats to frontline island Indigenous peoples.

In February 2023, Cyclone Gabrielle swept across Aotearoa New Zealand causing 11 deaths and more than $8 billion in damages. The Te Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) and Te Matau-a-Māui (Hawke’s Bay) regions were “the epicenter of devastation”. Ūawa (Tolaga Bay), a community in the Te Tairāwhiti region, saw devastating results. Major flooding, storm surges, soil erosion, and damages to homes, infrastructure, and lands were recorded and still part of daily life more than three months later.

Ūawa Tolaga Bay (2023)

“Prior to 2018, you could jump from bank to bank. The river used to be where people could swim, the water was healthy.” — Mere Tamanui

The effects of Cyclone Gabrielle are not only catastrophic by themselves. Since experiencing the region’s first major storm in 2018, the Ūawa community has been dealing the ongoing effects of the forestry industry’s byproduct: Slash.

The overwhelming presence of forestry in Ūawa has polluted the region with Slash — a waste product from commercial forestry. This debris includes anything from small branches, massive logs, to whole trees. These byproducts of extraction are left behind on the land, at the roadsides, in the rivers, and along the coastline when harvested. Sites are alarmingly hollowed out and abandoned from the mountains to the shores.

Cyclone Gabrielle caused the slash and debris to move — destroying homes, roadways, and important infrastructure, damming rivers, and depositing large amounts of sediment into homes, farmlands, and ecosystems.

We are pushing our land to the point of irreversible effects. It’s a violation of our culture.” — Mere Tamanui

Ūawa River Bed (2023)

The devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle and the damaging presence of the forestry industry has sparked innovation from the Ūawa community, led by Māori leaders of all ages with numerous areas of expertise to support their ancestral home.

Slash for Cash, led by Edmund Hillary Fellow Thabiso Mashaba, focuses on addressing environmental challenges in the Tairāwhiti region of Aotearoa. This project at Tolaga Bay Innovation uses slash to create products such as activated biochar and briquettes. It offers a unique opportunity for community members to mitigate the impact of recent environmental disasters, actively contribute to land restoration efforts, and work to create sustainable practices while also earning financial rewards.

The Ūawa Factory Road Native Nursery, led by community leader Mere Tamanui seeks to “Tree Activate”, through the use of mātauranga Maori (Māori knowledge) connecting people and places, whānau (family) and whenua (land) through native trees in order to foster Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) protecting, enhancing, and promoting the ecology and economy of Tairāwhiti whenua. This project seeks to deliver a bilingual scientific program exploring Indigenous Māori and Western European methods of science.

ICP Team in Ūawa Tolaga Bay (2023)

“We are so interwoven and connected to our environment… We can’t separate ourselves from our environment” — Rawinia Kingi-Olsen

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou

The Institute for Climate and Peace’s visit to Aotearoa New Zealand was designed to contextualize our organization’s values, initiatives, and changemaking efforts within the unique ecosystems of Aotearoa. Coming off of this experience, our team departs with a renewed sense of perspective, understanding, and ambition, profoundly informing the work we are involved in as individuals and as an organization.

Deepening our relationships to the places and communities of Aotearoa, this transformative journey provided the Institute with a greater scope of the work we seek to accomplish with the launch of the Pacific Partnership Hub, encompassing a diverse portfolio of work at the confluence of climate and peace with and from Aotearoa New Zealand. The Hub will serve as a platform for even more collaborative endeavors and knowledge exchange between communities in Hawaiʻi, Aotearoa, and the broader Pacific-Asia region.

The Institute for Climate and Peace extends our utmost gratitude to the beloved communities of Aotearoa for the generous support, education, and hospitality. We are thankful for the story sharing, learning opportunities, and connections made, and are looking forward to continuing on this shared journey, together.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou. Mahalo nui loa.

Waihau Bay Sunrise (2023)

Healani Goo is from Honolulu, Hawai‘i and is a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a B.A. in Psychology, along with a Certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies from the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace. As a young Native Hawaiian woman, she aims to continue to support climate justice, peacebuilding efforts, and Indigenous resilience within the Pacific-Asia region. She is particularly passionate about the interrelated dimensions of peace, gender, and the environment. Much of the work she is involved in at ICP revolves around gender equity, Indigenous knowledge, well-being, and cultivating positive peace. She hopes to continue to advocate for inclusive, equitable, and intersectional approaches to better inform, advance, and sustain climate solutions and peaceful societies.

Dr. Kealoha Fox applies Indigenous innovation for collaborative solutions in business, science, and policy and is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) advocate based in Hawai‘i. She is President & Senior Advisor to the Institute for Climate & Peace recognizing climate and peace as integrated collaborative fields helping to advance just and sustainable peace for thriving, cohesive communities. Dr. Fox is a co-chair of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Climate Commission; an Obama Leader Asia Pacific with the Obama Foundation; Policy Co-Chair of The Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Hawaiʻi COVID-19 Response, Recovery & Resilience Team; a Technical Contributor to the 5th National Climate Assessment with the U.S. Global Change Research Program; and member of the Embassy of Tribal Nations Climate Action Task Force. Her actions elevate healthy people, places, and futures with her new work entitled Kūkulu Ka Wanaʻao which uplifts mana wāhine to combat climate change. She serves on the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Hawai‘i Budget & Policy Center, among many other community leadership roles.