Climate change protests have begun in four cities, as New Zealanders join a global climate strike.
Thousands of students across the country are absent from school today – some of whom have been given permission – to join the global protests calling for urgent action on climate change.
Led by the Friday For Future student movement, countries from around the world will participate throughout the day.
Demonstrations, rallies and marches are being held simultaneously in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and New Plymouth to draw attention to global warming and demand action from leaders.
In Wellington, protesters gathered on Parliament grounds to the tune of rousing chants and speeches calling for action.
School Strike for Climate Wellington spokeswoman Siren Lewis said they were striking six key demands.
It included making New Zealand’s agricultural practices more sustainable, upgrading bike lanes and walkways and more free public transportation.
“We are young and we want a future on this planet,” Lewis said.
“It’s really easy to just ignore the voices of young people, but it’s really important that the government is held accountable,” ministry spokesman Frankie Houthance added.
Greens’ deputies also participated in the work.
To those assembled in Parliament, Green Party leader James Shaw was met with a standing ovation.
Shaw told them to continue their work, saying the movement needed to regain momentum, after Covid.
Xu told the crowd that he was also disappointed with the slow pace of change.
“You know people can be very cynical about the political process, and God knows it’s tough, right? And we’re pushing every day for stronger action on climate change, and we’re making very little progress for me, but your voices have made a huge difference.”
He said the consequences of climate change were evident this year, citing several devastating events from the floods in Pakistan to those in Nelson.
Other demands include ending coal and gas exploration, said Strike 4 Climate Wellington School spokesman Easy Cook.
“The government has said they are committed to being carbon neutral by 2050 but based on the changes that are being made to the way we live and the policies that are being served and things like that… I think and I think a lot other climate activists think the government is not doing enough and that’s why We continue to strike.”
Cook, a 12th-grade student, said she worries about the impact of climate change on her future, or whether she will have a future, unless urgent action is taken now.
About 200 people gathered in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square for the school strike, before marching to council offices and asking council members to take action.
The crowd increased as the march continued, crowding approximately 300 to 400 people.
One of the organizers, student Oscar Compton-Moen, said they wanted council members to support denser housing, avoid urban sprawl, and provide better public transportation.
Compton Moen said young people care about the climate because their future is at stake.
Another organizer told the crowd that sticking your head in the sand about problems is not the answer. She said their lives were in the hands of politicians.
Carter Andrew, a student at the University of Canterbury, said he was disappointed that leaders had not acted in the city.
Hundreds of people gathered in central Auckland to protest.
“I’m here today because time is up,” said one protester. “I am speaking on behalf of a planet that is asking for help.”
Maya Wake, a spokeswoman at the protest, said she wanted to introduce a Maori perspective to the kubaba.
“It is important to present this Māori viewpoint and any indigenous view, because the truth is that we are in a climate crisis due to colonialism.”
Sophie Todd, organizer of the Auckland Festival, was thrilled with the sunny weather and great turnout.
“We’ve been looking at the outlook and ready to stick either way, but we’re happy with the sunshine,” she said. The activity never stopped [during lockdown]. We are only able to take to the streets again now.”
Protesters in Auckland sarcastically met counter-protesters as they walked down Queen Street, but ignored them.