Ella Magnusson, Rhiannon Mackie and Imogen and Phoebe Magnusson - Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen
Climate Change Minister James Shaw has reassured young people organising Friday's school strike against climate change that he is listening to their demands.
Mr Shaw met students in Wellington today as they prepared banners for the protest on 15 March.
He said he wanted to find out what the strikers were looking for and what they wanted to hear from politicians when they marched to Parliament on Friday.
"They're feeling a bit of a backlash from the talk radio crowd and the adults who are being a bit defensive about this whole thing and they want to know from us that we're listening, because the whole point of their strike is that adults have not been listening and governments have not been listening," Mr Shaw said.
The strike is part of a global movement calling for faster action on climate change and it has polarised opinion.
Organisers of the New Zealand event expect thousands of young people will participate, though many will be marked "unjustifiably absent" from school.
Mr Shaw said successive governments had not taken climate change seriously and he hoped the strike would persuade adults to do more.
"It's great that people are saying this isn't moving fast enough," he said.
Mr Shaw said he was not telling young people to take part, but he was supporting those who decide to strike.
He said there was a growing civil movement against climate change and strikes by school children were a new development.
"They are worried about the world that they are going to be adults in and that their kids are going to be growing up in and saying the decisions we make today need to support that future."
One of the strike organisers, Year 13 student Molly Doyle, said the strike was already getting adults' attention.
"We've had MPs commenting on it, we've had a lot of media attention and it's bringing awareness to the issue so I think going on a strike is the best way to create awareness for what's happening," she said.
Another of the organisers, university student Isla Day, said young people could not wait until they were older to take action on climate change.
"We need to take more action on climate change now and a lot of that action is not going to come from trying to use the train rather than driving your car. We need to drive systematic change," she said.
Year 11 student Tony Huang said his parents were happy for him to skip school on Friday for the strike.
"They think it's great that I'm getting involved with activism and all that. Some of my friends have parents who aren't so into it, but for the most part most parents are supportive," he said.
Year 11 student Keira Malan said the government had not taken climate change seriously enough.
"If we don't take real action soon, then really, we're all doomed," she said.
Year 10 student Ella Magnusson said she and her friends had their parents' permission to join the strike, and many of her teachers were also supportive.
"They said we will have to be marked as skipping school, as truant, but they think it's a good idea," she said.
Ella Magnusson said the strike showed that young people were prepared to act on climate change.
Year 10 student Rhiannon Mackie said the strike would show adults that climate change was about the future of young people.
"Hopefully this will inspire the adults to act if they see that the younger generation want to take charge," she said.