Olivia Yates

Project title:

Stories of Neighbours and Navigators: Attitudes Towards and Implications of Climate Mobility from Tuvalu and Kiribati to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Overall abstract:

Climate change poses an unprecedented challenge to the Pacific region, disrupting Pacific

livelihoods, ways-of-being and histories of agentic mobility. While most people want to remain rooted on their ancestral lands, some residents of low-lying islands, such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, are considering cross-border migration. Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) is likely to host such climate migrants because of its long-standing – albeit fraught – relationships with the Pacific. Yet, no immigration pathways formally facilitate migration for climate-related reasons (climate mobility). Moreover, historical, environmental, political, and societal contexts may intersect to shape Pacific peoples’ well-being in Aotearoa NZ. Therefore, this PhD project exploresperceptions about and the well-being implications of climate mobility from the Pacific to Aotearoa NZ, with a focus on the Kiribati and Tuvaluan communities in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

The project uses a mixed-methods and collaborative approach that combines the talanoa methodology and critical community psychology across four different studies, or ‘stories’, about climate mobility. A review of the literature suggests that internal and cross-border climate mobilities have similar disruptive impacts on people’s identities, cultures, languages, social cohesion, and ties to land. However, the Kiribati and Tuvaluan communities tell a different story of mobility according to the metaphor of te vaka or te wa (oceangoing canoe) journeys. In this, wayfinders navigate immigration obstacles to regrow roots in Aotearoa NZ and chart a course forward for future generations. A quantitative survey of Aotearoa NZers’ perspectives contextualises these journeys, demonstrating that people’s attitudes towards climate migrants relate to their beliefs about climate change, climate justice and immigration. Accounts of solidarity from youth climate activists then extend climate justice to notions of neighbourliness, which entails accepting accountability, rethinking hospitality and negotiating relational connection.

Together, these studies weave a complex story of climate mobility as an environmental and neighbourly crisis. That is, facilitating climate mobility within Aotearoa NZ’s dehumanising immigration, economic and social systems is likely to heighten the precarity of climate change in the host nation. However, centring relationality in Aotearoa NZ’s neighbourly partnerships creates an opportunity to restore(y) climate mobility and support the flourishing of the Tuvaluan and Kiribati communities in Aotearoa NZ.

 Links to Publications:

Yates, O. E. T., Groot, S., Manuela, S., & Neef, A. (Forthcoming). “Owning the reality of renting the skies”: Youth climate activism and neighbourliness in the context of Pacific climate mobility. In B. Salami & N. Pauli. (Eds.), Handbook of Climate Migration and Mobility Justice. De Gruyter.

Yates, O. E. T., Groot, S., Manuela, S., & Neef, A. (2022). “There’s So Much More to that Sinking Island!”– Restorying Migration From Kiribati and Tuvalu to Aotearoa New Zealand. Journal of Community Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22928

Yates, O. E. T., Manuela, S., Neef, A., & Groot, S. (2022). Attitudes towards climate migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand: The roles of climate change beliefs and immigration attitudes. Regional Environmental Change, 22(3). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-022-01942-y

Yates, O. (2021). Ad-justing climate policies: Neoliberalism, neighbourliness, and the responsibilising of climate migrants in Aotearoa. Psychology Aotearoa, 13(2).

Yates, O. E. T., Manuela, S., Neef, A., & Groot, S. (2021). Reshaping ties to land: A systematic review of the psychosocial and cultural impacts of Pacific climate-related mobility. Climate and Development, 14(3), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2021.1911775

Links to seminars:

Yates, O. E. T. (2021, Jun 20-22). “Migrating with our skills, strengths and well-being”: Health and climate-related migration with(out) dignity from frontline Pacific Islands [Conference presentation]. Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health, Wellington, New Zealand. https://youtu.be/vTLP8DGCcBY.