Climate change protests are underway in four cities as New Zealanders join a global climate strike.
Thousands of students across the country are skipping school today – some with permission – to join global protests demanding urgent action on climate change.
Led by the Fridays For Future student movement, countries around the world will participate during the day.
Demonstrations, marches and rallies are taking place simultaneously in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and New Plymouth to draw attention to global warming and demand action from leaders.
In Wellington, protesters gathered on the grounds of Parliament to the sound of chants and rousing speeches calling for action.
School Strike for Climate Wellington spokesperson Seren Lewis said they were striking for six key demands.
These included making farming practices in New Zealand more sustainable, improving cycle paths and footbridges, and making public transport more free.
“We are young people and we want a future on the planet,” Lewis said.
“It’s really easy to ignore the voices of young people,” added spokesman Frankie Huthnance, but “it’s really important that the government is held accountable.”
Green MPs also got in on the action.
To those assembled in Parliament, Green Party co-leader James Shaw was greeted with enthusiastic applause.
Shaw told them to keep going, saying the movement needed to pick up momentum, post-Covid.
Shaw told the crowd he was also frustrated with the slow pace of change.
“You know people can be pretty cynical about the political process, and God knows it’s hard, right? And we push every day for stronger action on climate change and we do too little progress for my liking, but your voices made a huge difference.”
He said the consequences of climate change had been evident this year, citing several devastating events, from the floods in Pakistan to those in Nelson.
A School Strike 4 Climate Wellington spokesperson Izzy Cook said other demands included an end to coal and gas exploration.
“The government has said it’s committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, but based on the changes to our way of life and the policies that are introduced and things like that… I think and I think a lot of other climate activists think the government just isn’t doing enough and that’s why we keep on strike,” she said.
Year 12 student Cook said she was worried about how climate change would affect her future, or even whether she even had a future unless urgent action was taken now.
Around 200 people gathered in Christchurch Cathedral Square for the school strike, before marching to council offices and demanding action from councilors.
The crowd grew as the march progressed, gathering around 300 to 400 people.
One of the organizers, student Oscar Compton-Moen, said he wanted councilors to support denser housing, avoid urban sprawl and improve public transportation.
Compton-Moen said young people cared about the climate because it was their future that was at stake.
Another of the organizers told the crowd that burying their heads in the sand about the problems was not the solution. She said their lives were in the hands of politicians.
Carter Andrew, a student at the University of Canterbury, said he was disappointed with the lack of action from city leaders.
Hundreds of people gathered in central Auckland for the protest.
“I am here today because time is up,” one protester said. “I speak on behalf of a planet calling for help.”
Maia Week, a speaker at the event, said she wanted to bring a Maori perspective to the kaupapa.
“It’s important to bring that Maori perspective, and any indigenous perspective, because the reality is that we’re in a climate crisis because of colonization.”
Auckland organizer Sophie Todd was delighted with the sunny weather and strong turnout.
“We were watching the forecast and were ready to go either way, but we’re happy for the sun,” she said. “Activism has never stopped [during lockdown]. We’re just able to get back to the streets now.”
Protesters in Auckland were met with mockery from counter-protesters as they marched down Queen Street, but ignored them.
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