by Greta Yeoman
Timaru District Council has joined the ranks of more than 50 other councils after signing the Local Government NZ declaration on climate change.
The declaration was first pitched to all district, city and regional councils in 2017; however Timaru, Waimate and Mackenzie district councils were among those councils that did not sign it.
Timaru mayor Damon Odey told The Courier earlier this year that it was just “another vague statement”, rather than a call for any tangible action.
However, he changed his mind after more than 100 Timaru school pupils and their supporters took part in the global School Strike for Climate protest on March 15.
During the protest, held outside the council’s King George Pl offices, Mr Odey promised those gathered he was going to take the declaration back to councillors at the next council meeting, as requested by several protesting pupils.
That meeting, held last Tuesday, prompted an unanimous vote in favour of signing the declaration.
Councillor Kerry Stevens voiced his support for the move.
“[We] have taken climate change seriously for some time.”
Mayor Odey backed his comments, saying council had been doing “work in the background” on climate change concerns for a while.
The vote prompted a round of applause from a small group of supporters sitting in the meeting.
Mrs Elsen said the news would be exciting for the young people involved with the march, particularly Grantlea Downs School pupil Ollie Kirk (12) who had wanted to attend the meeting but had to go to school.
Ollie had turned up to the climate march with several signs and a poncho on which had had written “I’m 12, what’s your excuse?” – a message to older residents who were not interested in climate issues.
The South Canterbury protest on March 15 was part of the national and international School Strike 4 Climate movement, which was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish school pupil Greta Thunberg, who has been striking from school every Friday since August 2018 to protest against inaction on climate change.
Waimate and Mackenzie District Councils have not yet signed the declaration.