Students as young as nine who led a series of strikes across Northland calling for action on climate change say it's the only way they can get their message across to politicians.

In Russell, Kerikeri and Whangārei students abandoned their lessons to stage pickets and protest marches in support of the global School Strike 4 Climate Action.

Children at Russell School, led by Evie Trotter, 9, and Lia and Kira Kammerer, 12, were the first to commit to the strike.

Russell climate strike organisers, from left, Kira Kammerer, 12, Evie Trotter, 9, and Lia Kammerer, 12. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Russell climate strike organisers, from left, Kira Kammerer, 12, Evie Trotter, 9, and Lia Kammerer, 12. Photo / Peter de Graaf

About 30 pupils, more than a third of the school roll, and a similar number of parents and adult supporters from as far away as Whangārei marched around town, drew placards, made speeches, and had a sausage sizzle in the park next to Russell Hall.

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They also collected signatures for a petition to be delivered to Northland MP Matt King and read a list of demands including carbon neutrality by 2050, a Zero Carbon Act, and mechanisms allowing them to hold future governments to account.

Evie said she was inspired by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who went on strike every Friday for eight months to highlight her concerns.

Together with Lia and Kira, Evie gave a speech at assembly to explain their climate change concerns, contacted groups around Russell for support, and made permission slips for students who wanted to take part.

Eight-year-old Mali Johnston from Russell School was among those calling for change. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Eight-year-old Mali Johnston from Russell School was among those calling for change. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Going on strike was they only way they could get their message across, she said.

''We can't vote yet because we're not old enough and adults aren't stepping up. I thought this would get adults' and the government's attention.''

Kira was pleased with the turnout.

''This is a small town and we have a small school, so we're pretty proud of ourselves.''

The students were applauded as they marched around Russell but not everyone was in support.

One man stopped his 4WD as the children were gathering at the school gate and said: ''Remember kids, without oil and gas and industrial food production, you'll all starve.''

Russell School pupils march through the town calling for climate action. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Russell School pupils march through the town calling for climate action. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Some schools around the country warned those taking part they would be treated as truants.

Russell School principal Melissa Jackson, however, was ''fully supportive and very proud''.

''Even leaving the science and politics aside, I support anything in which students show leadership and are passionate.''

The strike leaders' learning experience could not have been matched by normal school activities, she said.

''These three young ladies came to me with absolute fervour to be part of something bigger than themselves. All we've done is lend them the barbecue and the sound system, they've done all the rest.''

''They truly are very concerned, and not just about their own futures. They have a strong sense of social justice and how privileged they are to grow up in New Zealand, and that some of their Pacific counterparts are not nearly so lucky.''

Missed classes would be treated as ''explained absence'' and not as truancy. The school had ensured there would be adequate adult supervision.

In Whangārei about 30 students from Tikipunga, Whangārei Girls' and Kamo high schools marched from the Regent to Okara Shopping Centre, stopping outside Whangārei District Council where they were greeted by mayor Sheryl Mai and councillor Anna Murphy.

Whangārei Girls High School students gather on the field to raise awareness of climate change. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Whangārei Girls High School students gather on the field to raise awareness of climate change. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Tikipunga High student Jasmine Spraggon, 16, organised the protest a few days earlier after seeing the action students were taking around New Zealand and overseas.

"If our adults aren't taking initiative then somebody has got to do something about it."

She believed if students had taken strike action outside school hours the issue would not have received as much attention.

Meanwhile, about 20 students at Whangārei Girls' High took a short march around the block while hundreds more raised awareness about climate change within the school grounds.

Students Becky Cody and Isobel Hume, who are leaders of the school's environmental committee, and Zahna Campbell and Esmee Clemow, who lead the global issues committee, organised educational videos to be played in class followed by a mass gathering of students on the field.

"Climate change is such a huge problem. We have not created the problem but we definitely want to solve it and that's the message we want to get across to these girls."

Students from Whangārei secondary schools march through Whangārei CBD. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Students from Whangārei secondary schools march through Whangārei CBD. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Whangārei Boys' High students marched to Laurie Hall Car Park and then to the Cameron St Laneway.

Prefect Mason Kennedy said he really wanted people to understand that his generation would be the ones to clean up the mess of previous generations.

"A lack of action is really what we are really having to deal with at the moment, and are going to have to severely deal with in the future."

Boys' High principal Karen Gilbert-Smith said she and staff were supportive of the protest.

Meanwhile, Kerikeri's strike was led by 11-year-old Dana Chandler of Bay of Islands International Academy at Te Tii.

Students line the road outside Northland MP Matt King's office during the Kerikeri climate strike. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Students line the road outside Northland MP Matt King's office during the Kerikeri climate strike. Photo / Peter de Graaf

More than 60 people, mainly students from Kerikeri High School, held a picket outside MP Matt King's office from 11am-2pm and marched around town, drawing lots of toots from passing motorists.

Dana, too, said she had been inspired by Greta Thunberg.

''We have to do something for out future, we can't just let it go to waste.''

She said the strike was only the start, not a one-off event.

'If there's no change, we'll have to raise our voices again.''

Kerikeri High School deputy principal Mike Clent said as long as parents explained their children were at the strike, Friday's absences would not be treated as truancy.

Students were also given a chance to assemble on the school green to express their views.

''Hats off to the kids for being environmentally aware and socially active,'' he said.

MP Matt King said it was great that children were aware and passionate about the environment.

National was committed to cross-party talks on addressing climate change and supported a shift to renewable energy, but decisions had to be made with a ''healthy dose of reality'' to ensure they was good for the economy as well as the environment.

Support for the strike includes an open letter signed by more 1500 Kiwi academics and teachers.