On Tuesday evening members of the new group Extinction Rebellion Poneke (XRPoneke) held their first peaceful action inside Wellington Airport to protest – with zombies – against the extension of the Wellington Airport runway. I’ve been going along to their meetings for the past few months in the build up to this and it has been a cool experience.
XR Poneke are just one of the many Extinction Rebellion groups which have sprung up in Aotearoa over the last few months. It has been great to see both seasoned activists and people new to public action, getting involved. Recently Coal Action Network Aotearoa included in their newsletter this good description of the movement,
“XR brings together the concerns and campaigns that so many of us have been working on into three simple, urgent and determined demands – that governments tell the truth about the crisis, that they use their power to put the country on an emergency footing and make the deep changes needed, and that we set up mechanisms to hold those in power accountable.”
While there are important critiques which have been made by many in the Climate Justice movement, everything I have seen so far shows that those organising under the XR banner in Aotearoa are trying to reflect on these and the questions of what it means to organise in this country, and how to acknowledge the important place of tangata whenua.
The XR movement has mobilised action in Otautahi Christchurch in December where 40 people turned off Environment Canterbury’s water supply, calling out the regional council’s appalling record of protecting water from pollution and commercial exploitation. It’s heartening to see the huge upswell of support for this bold action.
Current upcoming XR Poneke dates:
NVDA Training February 23rd, Specific TBA
XR International Week of Action 15th – 21st April
Their Wellington facebook groups is XRPoneke
(The following is an extract from their Wednesday 16th Press Release)
XR Poneke spokesperson Thom Taptiklis says: “The Wellington City Council has plans to become a ‘Low Carbon Capital’, but with its support for this runway extension – which even the National Party Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English called an unnecessary ‘White Elephant’ – it is set to become a HIGH carbon capital instead.”
Taptiklis continues, “We call on the Council to take its pledge to reduce carbon emissions in Wellington more seriously. The first step is to stop their support for this runway extension.”
Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL) wants to extend the runway 355m into Cook Strait. Almost 25 percent of the Wellington Region’s emissions are associated with the airport. The Wellington City Council, who co-owns one third of WIAL, does not account for greenhouse gas emissions from international air travel in its Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Any emission reductions the city has achieved have been offset by increases in aviation emissions. This will only get worse if the runway is extended to attract long-haul flights.
“The Council needs to start taking account of our international flight emissions. The Council’s ‘Low Carbon Capital’ plan must have clearer targets to reduce these emissions,” says Taptiklis. “The runway extension is dead on arrival. It is environmentally, socially and economically unsustainable. It is nothing but a zombie project. That’s why we decided to protest as a zombie horde, shambling around the airport chasing our mayor Justin Lester riding an elephant.””
Catastrophic climate change feedback loops and tipping points are happening already. A sixth mass species extinction is underway due to our economy’s addiction to fossil fuels. The scientific consensus is clear and New Zealand has signed on to the Paris Accord.
Wellington’s South Coast harbours several endangered species and is a thriving marine ecosystem that would be concreted over. The effects of dumping millions of tons of rubble into this environment to create 13ha of reclaimed land will affect the wider South Coast, including our nationally significant surf break at Lyall Bay and the Taputeranga Marine Reserve.
“Wellington Airport says it wants to send trucks carrying up to 1.5 million tons of infill from Ngauranga along State Highway 1 through Wellington City to the airport, with up to one truck movement per minute for at least four years. This will further impact thousands of Wellingtonians. Do you really want to share the roads with a procession of 23-metre-long trucks loaded with rocks and rubble, just so that it can all be dumped into the rising sea?”
“This extension means extinction. We urgently call on the Council and WIAL to stop supporting this zombie project.”
Extinction Rebellion (sometimes shortened as XR) is an international social movement that aims to drive radical change through nonviolent resistance in order to minimise species extinction and avert catastrophic ecological and climate breakdown.
It was established in 2018 in the UK when one hundred academics signed a call to action. The campaign was launched at the end of October by activists from the group Rising Up!. In November 2018, various acts of nonviolent civil disobedience took place in London. The movement is unusual in that a large number of activists have pledged to be arrested and are prepared to go to prison.
We are the Wellington chapter of Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa. We came together in November 2018 and this is our first Day of Action. In December, Extinction Rebellion Christchurch shut off the water supply to Environment Canterbury offices for an afternoon to protest ECan’s “undemocratic facilitation of the expansion of industrial farming practices that are turning our rivers toxic, cutting down trees, killing soil life and emitting dangerous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.” Last weekend, Extinction Rebellion Nelson held a mock funeral as a way of expressing grief about climate change and the danger it posed for the near future.
Extinction Rebellion will be carrying out more actions throughout Wellington and Aotearoa this year and beyond.