Pasifika people made their voices heard alongside thousands of others at the protest for action over climate change in Auckland today.
The School Strike 4 Climate protestors marched down Queen Street to Quay Street in the city centre to draw attention to rising sea levels in New Zealand and in the Pacific.
Addressing the crowd of thousands of activists at Aotea Square, protest co-ordinator Aigagalefili Fepulea’i Tapua’i talked about how youth organisation 4TK (4 Tha Kulture) was formed in South Auckland to “represent Southside” and “brown voices” after the first strike in March was scheduled on the first day of Polyfest.
She said this meant there were many Pasifika who were unable to attend.
Pania Newton, a leader of the occupation at Ihumātao, also spoke at the event. She told 1 NEWS she saw the emphasis of indigenous perspectives at the strike “draws on the fact that indigenous people here in Aotearoa and all around the world have a particular role to play in terms of kaitiakitanga”.
“They have this greater sense of connection to Mother Earth,” she said.
“It’s indigenous values we believe we need to draw on to address the climate issue.”
School Strike 4 Climate co-ordinator Luke Wijohn said he had been pushing for a more inclusive team to organise the strikes as Pasifika, Māori and farmers would be disproportionately affected by climate change. He said he was one of the only organisers of Māori descent from the original team.
“With [Aigagalefili] calling us out, I mean, made it way easier for me to enact those changes, basically. So now we've moved our meetings to South Auckland,” Mr Wijohn said.
He said the decision allowed them to engage more young people from outside of Central Auckland and form a partnership with 4TK.
The group also fundraised to subsidise public transport from South Auckland to the city centre.
“We can never get rid of all of the systemic reasons why it's more difficult for [people from] low-income backgrounds to protest, but we can try and remove some of the barriers,” Mr Wijohn said.
Ta’a Ramsey, a strike organiser from Manurewa, said his bus was packed.
“People who used the lack of transport as an excuse - we removed that barrier,” he said.
“I’ve come here mainly to support my Islands and make sure they don’t sink.”
The strikers are demanding the Government to declare a climate emergency. They also want parties to pass a more ambitious Zero Carbon Bill, the economy to transition to become more renewable and stop the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels in New Zealand.
A panel of United Nations scientists released a report about the impact of climate change across the globe on Wednesday.
They say that sea levels may rise by more than a metre by the next century if carbon emissions are not reduced.