As Aotearoa recovers from the devastating impacts of two cyclones and widespread flooding, climate activists took to the streets asking the Government for urgent action.
Thousands of people have joined about 11 co-ordinated climate strikes were planned today from Kaitaia to Dunedin, including one in central Auckland where about 500 people have gathered.
People of all ages congregated at the bottom of Queen St just before 3pm, learning protest chants and listening to speakers before marching to Victoria Park. Police were stopping traffic and escorting protesters through central Auckland, along Fanshawe St, as they made their way to Victoria Park.
“What’s the solution? Revolution,” the crowd chanted. “No more coal, no more oil, keep our carbon in the soil!”
The general feeling among protesters and organisers was impatience with the pace of New Zealand’s efforts to reduce emissions.
Speakers made mention of capitalism and a claimed link to emissions; indigenous rights; and criticised what they saw as Government inaction on what many in the crowd viewed as a dire threat to humanity.
Auckland Central and Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick also joined the protest and was seen holding a sign reading: “People over profit.”
Peter Whitmore, who was at the protest in Auckland said moves to reduce emissions in New Zealand had been “too slow” to limit warming.
”I certainly hope things will change, especially seeing the damage Cyclone Gabrielle has done here,” he said.
Those organising of the protest included Fridays for Future Tāmaki Makaurau, School Strike for Climate NZ and other local activists.
“The streets of Tāmaki Makaurau will be flooded with people instead of water, as people young and old ditch school and work to continue the long fight for meaningful climate action,” the organisers said in a media statement.
Community co-ordinator at WYMO and Generation Zero and Fridays for Future member Sophie Todd told the Herald this morning young New Zealanders were riddled with stress and climate anxiety.
“Our leaders don’t take action,” she said.
“We keep saying we need to be green and do better but there is no law. Our Government has signed the Paris agreement, we have a bill but the Government needs to act on it.”
Todd said the repeated inaction by “grown-ups” and “leaders” would begin to make the youth angry.
“We will have more strikes, more action and it will be more disruptive. Because it is my future at stake.
“We will be owing money internationally for agreements they have signed while knowing the whole time they need to do something but they did not take any action.”
Todd said the group’s five demands were collectively put together by people from 11 cities.
“No more exploration of fossil fuels. Even though Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government said it would not accept more applications for oil drilling, they have accepted some.
“Lower the age of voting to 16. In Auckland, we have had a very low voter turnout. If 16-year-olds are allowed to work and pay taxes, and make decisions about their lives, then they should vote. If we have young people who are in school voting, they will learn about democracy.”
Todd said they also want 30 per cent ocean protection and currently have only 1 per cent, lower than Australia.
“Lastly the Government should support regenerative farming, and support farmers to move away from fossil fuels and chemical fertilisers.”
Todd said the group demanded the Government subsidise e-bikes so those on lower incomes could afford them.
“We are frustrated with the Government making electric vehicle subsidies. They are targeting wealthy people with discounts of $80,000.”
Todd said these solutions would definitely come at a cost but as a “nation we can see the cost of not taking actions is much bigger”.
“In the recent storm, we have seen the impacts. We should have been managing land properly.
“Our policies are being advised by industry instead of scientists and industry is profit-motivated.
Todd said the reason why floods were so bad in Auckland is “we don’t have enough green spaces and not enough mature trees, they intersect with the water cycle in many ways”.
“For me, floods felt emotional and heartbreaking,” he said.
“It feels like the Government and grown-ups have to wait until it’s on their front door or dripping from ceilings or flooding garages to take any action.”
The group said their demands should be enacted within the first 100 days of the next government coming to power.
“We demand that the next elected government enacts these solutions within their first 100 days of power, to prove to Aotearoa that they understand the severity of the emergency we are facing.”
The march in Auckland would include a rally of DJs, songwriters, and speakers, they said.
Those attending include Mike Smith (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) climate spokesman for the Iwi Chairs Forum and Māori rights and climate change activist; Bianca Ranson (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa) Forest & Bird ocean campaigner and activist with Protect Pūtiki; Māori rights activist Te Aata Rangimarie Smith (Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Tautu ki Aitutaki); and Zane Wedding (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Kuri) arborist and activist with Mana Rākau.
The group said they would visit some of the country’s “worst climate polluters”: BP, Air New Zealand and Fonterra.
A block party with DJs, songwriters and an open mic would also be held at Victoria Park from 5pm once the march route was completed.
“There are people who have lost everything in floodwaters this year, even their lives. It is not good enough. Join us this Friday to once again demand that our Government puts people before profit and takes climate action seriously,” they said in a statement to the media.
“Following a summer of flooding and extreme weather in Tamaki, it’s time to remind our Government that we still want meaningful climate action.”
2023 climate strike locations:
Ahuriri Napier: Soundshell, 11am
Ngāmotu New Plymouth: Puke Ariki Landing, midday
Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington: Te Ngakau Civic Square, 2pm, Parliament, 3pm
Kaitāia: Te Ahu Art Centre, 2.40pm
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland: Britomart, 3pm
Te Papaioea Palmerston North: The Square, 3pm
Ōtautahi Christchurch: Cathedral Square, 3pm
Ōtepoti Dunedin: Octagon, 3pm
Whakatū Nelson: Trafalgar St, 3pm
Tāhuna Queenstown: Village Green, 3pm
Wānaka: Lismore Park, 3.15pm.
Tauranga: Bay of Plenty Council 3.30pm