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SocietyMarch 15, 2019

School Strike 4 Climate: rolling updates as student protests kick off in NZ


A global day of action from young people is under way in New Zealand. We’ll be updating throughout the day here – send us your pics and observations for publication:

For everything you need to know about today’s planned events, go here.

2:50pm: The Spinoff has just been sent a photo taken during  Nicola Willis’s speech on the steps of parliament.

(Photo: Stella Muir)

2:30pm: Snaps from Aotea Square in Auckland

Extremely unimpressed (Image: Alex Twentyman)
View from Metrolanes (Image: Alex Twentyman)

2.20pm: What happened at the Auckland event? Here’s Madeleine Chapman:

“It was crowded, largely because of the the surprising lack of room free for protesting in Aotea Square. Students packed in to the Queen St entrance and pushed up against the large Victorian stage piece erected for the Auckland Arts Festival. The go-to chants were ‘hi-ho, hi-ho, climate change has got to go’ and ‘when I say climate, you say action’.

“The protest began at the square, where usually a walking march would end. Student leaders gave impassioned speeches and chants continued, but for two hours there was no movement. The best seat in the house was up in the shady Metrolanes balcony. Just before 2pm, it was announced that there would be a march down Queen St after some live music. March to where? Who knows. The bus stops were full of students on their way home as we left.”

2.00pm: New Plymouth!

Thanks Jan for the pic (Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little were apparently there too.)

1.55pm: The scale of the Wellington march is captured in this aerial view, via Generation Zero:

1.45pm: Madeleine Chapman sends this evocative snap of Auckland protesters waiting for the bus.

Meanwhile, hats off to the students of Hamilton, whose protest begins fashionably late in the day, in 15 minutes.

1.30pm: We’ve received unverified reports that one Auckland school principal warned pupils against taking part by saying, “Students who go to these strikes are the kind of people who ride Lime scooters”.

Airhorn: Blenheim!

1.25pm: More from our on-the-spot reporter.

1.20pm: The prime minister’s office has just issued a press release with the slightly underwhelming header, “Climate legislation progressing”. The “final details” of the Zero Climate Bill are being worked on, it says. Jacinda Ardern says, while omitting to mention that in fact it’s already well behind schedule. “This is ground-breaking legislation. No New Zealand government has ever had to pass a law that over a 30 year timeframe seeks to stop climate pollution entering the atmosphere. It’s technical and difficult legislation we are working hard to finalise. Once we lock down the remaining details we will be in a position to announce the timeframe for the Bill’s introduction. I’m very keen to see it finalised and completed by the end of this year.”

“Very keen” seems a bit less committed than James Shaw’s remarks of earlier. Ardern adds: “We want to try and reach a consensus so that the legislation is lasting. It needs to endure for 30 years, not just the next three.” And: “I want to acknowledge today’s youth Climate Strike. I have said that climate change is my generation’s nuclear free moment. For them it’s literally their future. My message is simple, we hear you and we’re getting on with setting a path for carbon neutrality. Please keep bringing as many people as you can with you, because we simply won’t achieve our goals alone.”

1.10pm: Whangarei!

(Thanks to Odette for the pic.)

12.45pm: East Coast!

12.40pm: Rainy Christchurch is also gearing up…

12.35pm: The Octagon is heaving in Dunedin!

12.30pm: A tense moment at the Wellington rally, where Nicola Willis defends National Party policy on oil and gas exploration in New Zealand, to jeers from the crowd.

Meanwhile, Nelson!

12.25pm: More from Mad in central Auckland: “A young man with a sign reading ‘Euthanise boomers’ is talking animatedly to two boomers.”

12.15pm: The Spinoff’s Madeleine Chapman is in Aotea Square.

12.10pm: This comes from the Spinoff’s Emily Writes who is at the Wellington protest with her kids:

“I’ve been to many protests but this was the largest. I marched first in a hikoi when my first born was in my belly and have taken him to protests in his buggy, but this is the first protest he’s ever been to where he understood what was going on and wanted to be part of it. At other protests he’s been dragged along because I can’t always get childcare or because I want him to grow up knowing when people are upset about something they can voice that and try to make things better. The kids got stuck on the bus because, phenomenally, the rangatahi marched bang on 10am. I’ve never been to a protest that has started on time. The kids are clearly more organised than any protesting adult.

“So we caught the end of the march, where all the kindy children were walking. I walked with my six-year-old and his best friend who is five, her sister who is two and their mum. The kids chanted on the bus before we even joined the march ‘NO CLIMATE CHANGE’ and ‘Climate change is BAD BAD BAD’ were their fairly rudimentary chants. Everywhere we walked adults applauded them but the mood was fairly solemn among the older tamariki and teenagers. They’re angry and they want to be heard. There were some great signs but what struck me the most were the kids talking eloquently and clearly to media about what they wanted. It flew in the face of smug adults saying the young people protesting today don’t know what they’re talking about or can’t change anything. These kids are more informed than most columnists whose bread and butter is talking about how we’re all going to die.

“Three young kids I spoke to had signs with information about fossil fuels another lot talked about carbon emissions and the Paris agreement. The young people who spoke at the rally were clear about what their demands were, it was powerful stuff. They asked why adults aren’t fighting for them. They said they should be able to focus on the education instead of fearing for the future they likely won’t have because our inaction. I could feel the shame among the adults, a lot of us were tearing up. It was sobering. They’re angry. We left early because my son was tired, but as we walked toward the bus an elderly man stopped us. He bent down to Eddie’s level and said, ‘Thank you for marching today.’ It was an incredibly moving moment. Personally, today taught my son we’re all in this together, that we need to work together and that we need to act. For the young people today, I hope they felt heard, and I’m sorry.”

12.05pm: Finance minister Grant Robertson has been speaking in Wellington. “There’s an old saying that the best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago, and the second best time is today. You have planted that tree today and we are listening.”

Then National MP Nicola Willis has a turn, backing calls for “collective action today”.

No sign of anyone from NZ First.

12.00pm: After Donna Awatere-Huata fires up protesters in Wellington, James Shaw takes the stand. “Why is it that four years after the Paris agreement was signed that you feel you have to be here to fight for the future? Politicians have been talking about climate change for 30 years … It is time for the talking to stop and time for the action to start,” he says. “And that is why we are committed to passing the Zero Carbon Act this year.” It’s significant, though not new, that he’s promised to get legislation for emission reduction and a nonpartisan commission by this year. There’s a bit of work to do.

11.50am: James Renwick, just named science communicator of the year, is on the mic in Wellington. “The way to get action is for people to stand up, to speak up, and that’s what you’re doing today. Today you are leading the world, and New Zealand could be leading the world on climate change … If we have enough of this action we will get action from government.”

Meanwhile crowds are gathering in Auckland. According to our reporter on the spot, the vibe is slightly bummed by the “giant Victorian set for the Auckland Arts festival” in Aotea Square.

11.45am: James Shaw is about to address demonstrators in Wellington. Newshub have a livestream here. Will the climate change minister have anything substantial to announce to the crowd? He’s been working hard trying to get cross-party support for the Zero Climate Bill, which is now a month late, but it’s understood he’s struggling still to get a deal locked down. Maybe an announcement about a timetable? He’s just press released some climate change policy news but “Changes to the Terms of Reference for the Interim Climate Change Committee” is unlikely to set the crowd alight.

11.30am: As speeches get started on the steps of parliament, the climate change minister James Shaw, complete with a tasty shiner from an unprovoked attack in the badlands of Wellington’s Botanic Gardens, has posted a video saying he’s looking forward to joining today’s strike, and issuing thanks to those who helped out when he was targeted yesterday.

11.20am: The Spinoff does not wish to cause widespread panic, but it appears the animal kingdom is also rising up in support of climate action.

11.15am: Kate Hawkesby with all the ???s this morning: “A school teacher emailed me the other day saying he makes sure he teaches his students both sides of the climate change debate. Some teachers say they won’t teach it at all, others preach it as gospel. What we need is balance.”

11.10am: A strong contender appears. 

11.05am: Shout out to the kids but boo to all the fuddy duddy adults on Twitter confusing the message by throwing out each and every hashtag under the sun. Is it #Strike4Climate? #ClimateStrike? #ClimateStrikeNZ? #schoolsstrikeforclimate? #ss4cnz?


The Wellington marchers, already at Parliament, careened down Willis Street despite orders to slow the pace. “WHAT DO WE WANT? CLIMATE JUSTICE! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!” On Twitter, Dr Rebecca Priestly says “this is the loudest and fastest protest march I’ve ever been on.”

10.55am: Masterton!

10.45am: OK maybe it can (see previous post).

10.40am: They’re not pissing around. The Wellington crowd have marched at an incredible pace and are already arrived at parliament.

Sign of the day so far. Can it be beaten?

10.30am: They’re under way already in Wellington, and it’s a big turnout in Civic Square. Looks like at least a couple of thousand.

10:00am: What’s planned for today? We’ve rounded up the when, where, why and how in this post.

A powerful first person explanation: Why We’re Striking.

The Children’s Commissioner threw his weight behind the protesters in this piece for the Spinoff.

Planning to strike today? Alex Casey spoke to veteran NZ protesters for their tips for the newbies. Get that here.

Organisers’ guidelines are here.

And you have to read Rebecca Macfie’s interview with David Wallace-Wells, author of probably the year’s most important book. Of the climate strike, he says: “It’s become a major global story, and one of the few things that has made climate change a running daily conversation point in much of the world. And that’s basically unprecedented. Incredible, remarkable, laudable and encouraging. But protest alone gets you only so far, and it’s a matter of exactly how all of our national politics respond to that pressure that will determine just how effective it is.”

One more thing: Listen to episode one of Good Ancestors, a four-part podcast that examines the role of children in our planet’s future on the player above, subscribe on iTunes, or download this episode (right click and save).

9.30am: A very apt headline to start the day: Greta Thunberg, whose individual strike started this whole crazy thing, has been nominated for the Nobel Prize.


Keep going!