Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Sailing for Sustainability: The Potential of Sail Technology as an Adaptation Tool for Oceania. A Voyage of Inquiry and Interrogation through the Lens of a Fijian Case Study

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posted on 2021-11-13, 18:35 authored by Nuttall, Peter Roger

This thesis records an action research-based inquiry into the potential of sail technology as an adaptation intervention for sea-transport that would assist Oceanic communities (at local and national levels) (re)claim resilience in the face of growing threats from climate change and extreme fossil-fuel dependency. The issue is explored at micro, meso, and macro geographic levels and temporally across past heritage, the current situation and looking to a future horizon. A case study approach is employed, where possible focussed through a Fijian lens. The thesis finds that while there are grounds for expanded research into and priority of sustainable sea-transport, this central issue facing most Oceania communities remains invisible within the policy space at all levels and has been hitherto ignored by regional and development agencies. Barriers are identified as being as much perceptual as actual, and lack of technology is not the primary issue but rather more deep-seated factors including ownership, operation, and management spread across multiple ‘well-beings’ including culture and socio-economic concerns. There are multiple lessons to learn from interrogation of the past.   The process of inquiry was initiated within existing talanoa of key partner communities in Fiji and has, in turn, proved catalytic in initiating both fresh research into Fijian seafaring heritage – particularly that concerning the Waqa Tabu or Drua and its related culture in Fiji and central Oceania - and a growing network of interest in an agenda of sustainable sea-transport for this region. The former proved elemental to a programme of art and performance undertaken by the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies leading up to the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomons 2012 and both strands were brought together in the region’s first international ‘Sustainable Sea-Transport Talanoa’ hosted by the University of the South Pacific in November 2012. It now appears there is sufficient critical mass generated to ensure a sustained programme of both action and research will ensue and it is suggested critical learning of collaboration and partnership as well as measures for assessing the sustainability of such a programme can be gleaned from other Oceanic Participatory Learning and Action experiences, in particular the Fiji Local Marine Management Area programme.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

960311 Social Impacts of Climate Change and Variability

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John; Teaiwa, Teresia