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Auckland Climate Strike pushes for community-driven action

by Nic George (he/him)

chief reporter

Thousands across the country took to the streets to protest climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike on March 3rd.

The Auckland event was organised by School Strike 4 Climate, Protect Pūtiki and Fridays for Future. However, many other groups made contributions.

Strikers gathered at the bottom of Queen Street outside Britomart Station where a line-up of speakers addressed the crowd before they marched to Victoria Park.

Organisers laid out five key demands:

1. No new exploration or mining of new fossil fuel resources

2. Lower the voting age to 16

3. 30 per cent marine protection by 2025

4. Support regenerative farming

5. E-bike rebates for lower-income families

There were multiple stops along the route as they passed a BP petrol station, and the Fonterra and Air New Zealand head offices.

A small group of Fonterra workers huddled by the window as they watched the protestors take an extended stop outside, where they voiced their demands for swift government action to curb Aotearoa's leading carbon emitter.

There were many speeches covering a wide variety of topics, but a common message that underpinned them all was a call for communities to come together to push for more progressive climate action.

Sophie Todd, a member of Fridays for Future, spoke about the dangers of waiting for the perfect solution instead of incremental improvements.

"We need to be speaking about this imperfectly, and acting imperfectly, and figuring out imperfect solutions that might not work 100 per cent off the bat but we keep moving forward."

Xavier Walsh, Co-President for Unite Union Tāmaki Makaurau, called out both the Government and the opposition for not doing enough to reel in Aotearoa's biggest polluters.

"So, I say to the Labour and National parties, I can smell the fossil fuels on your breath!"

Walsh advocated for a union-led response to climate change to ensure that working-class people are treated fairly in a transition to sustainable business practices.

When asked about what role unions could play in addressing climate change, Walsh urged young workers to bring the same energy to advocacy in their workplace.

"We saw so many young people today for the climate. Why not get stuck in at their workplace too?"

Debate spoke to Jan Logie, Workplace Relations Spokesperson and MP for the Green Party, about the importance of unions and allowing democratic processes to play a part in the workplace.

"I do think there is a growing public and political concern about the degree of polarisation that is happening in our communities, and the risk of that being exacerbated through climate crisis is real."

She went on to say, "From the Green Party's perspective that calls for us to have more intentional and active interventions to foster democracy, and that includes our workplaces."

While strikers advocated for a bottom-up approach to addressing climate change, large corporations, like Air New Zealand, have been implementing a top-down approach by creating a Chief Sustainability Officer position within the company to help implement sustainable business practices.

Logie suggested that while these two approaches may look like they oppose each other, they could be complementary of each other if executed properly.

"If we can build that connection and sense of respect through all of our workplaces then our societies and communities will be so much stronger and able to deal with what's in front of us."

However, she warned that without the connection between workers and the executive position, the implementation of the role could further perpetuate the issue of greenwashing among private industries.

Logie and other Green Party members were present at the marches in Wellington and New Plymouth. Also in attendance at the Auckland event were Auckland Central MP, Chlöe Swarbrick, and Green Party Co-Leader, Marama Davidson, who were seen marching and chanting amid the crowd.

While it was a student-led movement, there were a wide variety of age groups that took part. Todd said they are looking to “up the ante” leading up to the election, with another strike planned for August.

"We have over ten climate groups collaborating on this one today, but we're aiming to have over 100 next time." Marches took place across 11 cities around Aotearoa and strikers in Christchurch staged a sit-in at the Christchurch City Council building.


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