Two Kaitaia College students who sat through a Far North District Council meeting in Kaitaia didn't get the climate emergency declaration they were calling for, but they were given the chance to speak.

Ethan Nemeroff and Kiel Minervino decided to sit in on the meeting after hearing that 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," Ethan said.

The Kaitaia College Climate Action Group wanted the council to declare a climate emergency, Ethan saying that while there was no mechanism to ensure that a declaration would be followed by action, it would provide a goal.

Advertisement

"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," he added.

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 staff the green light to join the Northland-wide Te Tai Tokerau Climate Change Adaptation Working Group's work programme, while climate change will be considered in the council's new Integrated Transport Strategy and in its review of the district plan.

Ethan, 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," he said.

Kiel called on the council to ensure its reports were written in accessible, easily understood language, claiming that the way the climate change update had been written was a "huge barrier" that would have shut out many Far North residents.

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's concern 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.

"This challenge is far greater," he said.