Two Kaitaia College students who sat through a council meeting with climate change placards didn't get the emergency declaration they were calling for — but they did get a chance to make an impromptu speech about their concerns.
Ethan Nemeroff, 17, and Kiel Minervino, 18, decided to sit in on last week's Far North District Council meeting in Kaitaia after hearing climate change was on the agenda.
''We thought, if youth turned up with signs and sat in the gallery it would show councillors we're here, we care, and we have a vested interest in this,'' Nemeroff said.
The Year 13 students, members of their school's Climate Action Group, wanted the council to declare a climate emergency.
While there was no mechanism to make sure such a declaration was followed by action, it did provide a goal, Nemeroff said.
''When the Kaitaia community sees that the council has declared a climate emergency, they will see it's time to take action. And when councillors make decisions they will have to keep the climate's interests at heart.''
Instead, councillors directed staff to create a council-wide working group to come up with climate change strategies, and to make sure the council was meeting the requirements of the Government's Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill.
They also gave council staff a green light to join the Northland-wide Te Tai Tokerau Climate Change Adaptation Working Group's work programme.
Climate change will also be considered in the council's new Integrated Transport Strategy and in its review of the District Plan.
Councillor Dave Hookway — who had to be regularly reminded of his five-minute speaking limit per topic during the June 27 meeting — opted to give four-and-a-half minutes of his slot to the Kaitaia College teens, allowing them to make an impromptu presentation.
Later, Nemeroff, who is also a Far North youth councillor and a member of the 2019 Youth Parliament, said it wasn't just up to the council to act on climate change.
''Many small actions by large numbers of people can have a big effect. People shouldn't rely on the council to save us, it's everyone's duty.''
Minervino called on the council to ensure its reports were written in accessible, easily understood language. The way the climate change update had been written was a ''huge barrier'' that would have shut out many Far North residents, he said.
Councillor Kelly Stratford said climate action the council was already taking included reducing emissions and cutting plastic use. ''As one of the biggest employers in the district we should be setting an example,'' she said.
Councillor John Vujcich said his concern about declaring a climate emergency was that if the council resolved to do something it had to be achievable, and not just words.
Climate change was in a different league to the emergencies the council normally dealt with, he said.
''This challenge is far greater.''