Hands Across the Sand is a global annual event which first developed in 2010 in response to the environmental calamity that was the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. New Zealanders made their voices heard far and wide on Sunday 17 May, in Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson, Kaikoura, Christchurch and Invercargill.

Oil Free Otago hosted the Dunedin event on St Clair Beach esplanade, emphasising the negatives of fossil fuel expansion and the positives of clean energy. The assembly of concerned locals turned out much larger than originally expected.

"Our Hands Across the Sand turned into 'Hands Across the Sea Wall,'" said Oil Free Otago spokesperson Rosemary Penwarden.

"Only an hour out from low tide the sea was too high to stand on the beach without getting soaked. It was a fitting reminder of why we were there. More burning of fossil fuels will cause more sea level rise. We were there to say 'no' to more deep sea drilling, and 'yes' to a swift transition to a clean energy, low carbon future."

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Ms Penwarden says New Zealand needs to be giving a lot more attention and consideration to the nation's carbon outputs.

"Ending our burning of fossil fuels will take time and effort, but we must start now," she says. "The longer we wait, the more difficult and costly it will get to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and ensure a liveable climate for our children and grandchildren."

The 2015 event was a particularly poignant one for New Zealand, given that the government and Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser are currently holding public meetings throughout the country at short notice.

They are seeking opinions on New Zealand's post-2020 climate change target under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The target will then be taken to the international climate conference in Paris in December, which will result in the establishment of a new global agreement.

"What is the point of setting a target if you have no plan to reach it?" says Ms Penwarden.

"Our government's only plan is to keep digging up more climate-destroying fossil fuels. We joined hands to demand real action on climate change from our government in Paris, not some flaky target that they do not intend to meet."

Submissions to the government end on 3 June.

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