'Strong climate actions now'; Wānaka students strike

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 06, 2024

A crowd of 60, led by Mount Aspiring College students, marched through Wānaka's streets today holding signs and chanting loudly for immediate climate action.

Their voices join thousands around New Zealand, with sixteen other marches organised around the country.

In order to pull off today's event, MAC's student organisers Lulu Petitt and James Watson made contact with 30 organisations, including the police to get permissions for the strike and to walk along Wānaka's main roads. 

Their efforts were supported by the college's sustainability committee. The students and their supporters had the attention of people in town today, and received a number of supportive honks and cheers from those passing by.

'What do we want?...Climate action,' students shouted today.

MAC student and march organiser James Watson says although he's attended other strikes in the past, this one felt special and important to him, because it's the first one since the National coalition came into power.

"We really need them (the government) to listen...it's scary when you talk to them and read what they are doing."

He points out that he wasn't able to vote in last year's election. 

Speaking to the crowd to today, he reminded the crowd of the strike's six demands of the government; to keep the oil and gas ban, uphold the principals of the Treaty of Waitangi, discontinue fast-track consent legislation, protect New Zealand's oceans and conservation land, offer climate education for all and to stand in solidarity with Palestine. 

He says growing up in Wānaka, using the lake in summer, and going skiing in winter, is why he feels passionate about looking after the environment.

"You can actually see here in Wānaka the changes that are happening, the creeks aren't as healthy...and seeing the winters degrade so quickly. It's heartbreaking."

Organiser James Watson rallied students at the end of the march with the megaphone.

Co-organiser Lulu Pettit is no stranger to enviro-action, having successfully campaigned for her primary school to go plastic free and volunteering regularly with Grow Wānaka. 

She agrees that growing up in Wānaka means she wants to look after the environment for herself and for future generations.

The students also invited local organisations WAI Wānaka, Wao, Wastebusters, Kahu Youth, and representatives from the Green Party, who were all in attendance. 

Also there today was MAC's former sustainability committee head Hazel Murray, who's back down in Wānaka on her university mid-semester break. 

She says it was "really cool" to see how much the event continues to grow on previous years, and reflected on how things had changed since she first started at MAC.

"We were pretty small and pretty discouraged from doing anything, and to now have built a a green community within the school...it's grown over the past few years and there's a lot more strength." 

Hazel Murray (high-viz) returns from uni break and joins in the rally.

She says through sustainable actions, like the planting days she's attended, she's been able to meet a lot of like-minded people. 

And, to the people who want to discourage young ones for standing up for climate action, she reminds them of their age. 

"We are figuring out our place in the world and what we want to see...and it's not a threat," she says. 

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