Local students join climate change marchers

Marching with other student climate change protesters on May 24 were Cambridge High School students Molly Oldershaw, Holly Gascoigne, Drew Baldwin and Josie Palmer. Photo – Supplied.

Fifteen Cambridge High School students joined several hundred others in Hamilton and thousands around the country who took part in the May 24 climate change strike.

The first student strike for climate change awareness was held internationally and across New Zealand on March 15. But because its message was overshadowed by the mosque attack in Christchurch, students around the country arranged a second strike on May 24.

The CHS group had originally planned to gather outside the Cambridge Town Hall last Friday at the same time as the Cambridge Tree Trust was giving away trees, but they later decided to join other schools marching in central Hamilton.

One of the CHS organisers, Year 13 student Joe Dillon, said: “We wanted to show that students from other Waikato towns were marching in solidarity over this issue. We carried placards and delivered a set of 11 demands that we would like to see implemented.”

The demands began by questioning Hamilton’s absence from the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration, signed by almost 60 mayors and regional council chairs. “We are striking from our schools to show the Hamilton City Council and Parliament the urgency that climate action requires,” it said. “We need strong leadership from local government to signal to all Hamiltonians that significant action must be taken now.”

Cambridge High School Year 13 climate strike organiser, Joe Dillon, during the May 24 protest in Hamilton. Photo – Carl Gordon/Planet Pix Photography.

The Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration centres on the principle that those signing it acknowledge the existence of climate change. It calls on central government to work with local government in reducing and mitigating its effects; no specific measures are outlined.

Waipa is among the declaration’s signatories, but Hamilton Mayor Andrew King is not. He was reported in March as saying that while he agreed climate change needed to be addressed, he was reluctant to sign what he described as “an unknown document, with unknown costs, over an unknown period, written by unknown bureaucrats”.

He said Hamilton was already making a difference, and that what was needed was real action, “not some vague, feel-good document which doesn’t lay out any clear plans, costs, targets or commitments.”

His position remains unchanged.

The 11 demands called for the declaration of a climate emergency, setting a more ambitious timeframe for going carbon zero, supporting circular economies, toughening waste reduction policies, tighter measures around plastics and compostable waste, increasing indigenous vegetation cover, implementing mandatory programmes around conservation and consumer education, and introducing free buses for those under 18 to reduce the number of single-car users driving to schools.

Joe said almost 90 CHS students wanted to join the May 24 strike, but most were not able to because of other commitments. Some of those who did take part took the whole day out of school, while others just took a few hours.

He said CHS students had a strong environmental focus.  There was an active Environmental Committee at school and he was personally involved in two other groups – Pest Free Cambridge and Trees for Survival.

The momentum for change was increasing with each student protest event, he said. Another is being planned for September.

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