Scores of rallies were held in towns and cities across the country with children in school uniform walking alongside people from all walks of life, both young and old.
Organiser School Strike for Climate NZ tweeted that it had received credible reports that 170,000 people were striking nationwide, a figure that would represent 3.5 percent of the country’s population.
Local media put the crowd in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, at about 40,000. Students there planned to deliver a petition to the national parliament calling on the government to declare a climate emergency.
Young protesters were again ready to counter arguments that they should be in school, instead of rallying for the climate.
“My education doesn’t matter if I have no future or if I have no land,” Elizabeth Glassie, a protester in Auckland, told Radio New Zealand.
Young people had to act, 14-year-old Armand Headland said, arguing that inaction would leave the planet transformed into an uninhabitable wasteland.
“It’ll be just like Venus because it’s so hot … there’s not going to be any humans left because of our activity if we keep burning stuff,” Headland said.
The latest round of protests build on last week’s marches by millions of children around the world, and will roll through Asia and Europe before culminating in a rally in Montreal, Canada, where teenage activist Greta Thunberg is scheduled to speak.
Thunberg, who is credited with inspiring the school strikes, this week lambasted world leaders for a lack of action on climate change action at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York this week.
“How dare you,” she said in a blistering speech that captured global attention and on Friday was daubed across protest placards.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is currently in New York, on Thursday announced she had support from four other countries for a proposed new trade agreement to combat climate change.
Ardern said negotiations would begin with Norway, Iceland, Costa Rica and Fiji early next year, adding that she hoped other nations would sign on.
Michael Alspach, 37, braved the crowds with his 17-month-old toddler Ella, saying he would not be able to look his daughter in the eye unless he did everything in his power to secure her future.
“It’s probably not going to be too bad for me, to be honest, but she’s going to be 80 in 2100 and that’s when the projections are looking quite bad, so I’m doing it for her,” he said.
While dissatisfied at the climate commitments made in New York, Alspach was confident the push for meaningful action was gaining momentum.
“It’s great to see so many people out here. Changing perspectives is the first step, actions come after ideas – I’m hopeful,” he said.