One year ago this week, Cyclone Gabrielle hit Northland and began tracking down the country, causing widespread damage and killing 11 people.
It was a devastating storm, made worse by climate change and struck only two weeks after the Auckland Anniversary Day floods also caused widespread damage and killed four people.
The twin storms were a cruel reminder of the deadly threat posed by the climate crisis and should have been a wake-up call for all political parties to take climate action more seriously.
Here’s a short video we made in Tairāwhiti, one of the worst-hit areas. It’s just as relevant today as it was then.
Cyclone Gabrielle devastated homes and communities, and one year on, we’re still recovering from the impact of flooding and slips caused by the storm. We know that as the climate crisis continues, we can expect to see storms like Cyclone Gabrielle happening more often – unless we take action to stop climate change from getting worse.
And yet we have a Government that is intent on increasing the risk by rolling back efforts to limit climate change.
First, we saw the Hipkins Government shelve or burn even the meagre plans it had for climate action, and now we have a Government that wants to restart oil exploration! Neither the last Government nor this one has shown any sign of holding New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter to account. Fonterra and the dairy industry continue to pollute relatively unrestrained despite being New Zealand’s biggest contributor to the climate floods that caused so much harm.
In March 2023, as Fonterra reported a 50% increase in profit, we delivered flood-damaged household items to the Fonterra HQ in Auckland to underline their complicity in the climate crisis that worsened the damage caused to communities here in Auckland and around the country.
Successive Governments have failed to hold the dirty dairy industry to account, but we will not rest until that happens, no matter who is in Government.
We will continue calling for an end to the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser to grow the grass that feeds the oversized dairy herd and for the end of imported feed like PKE that helps drive rainforest destruction in Southeast Asia to feed too many cows here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
There is hope to be found
In response to this Government’s backwards-facing approach, the climate movement is coming alive again.
We have seen some big wins recently, and they remind us that the real power is with us, outside parliament with groups like Greenpeace, with hapū and iwi and with thousands of people like you.
Just last week, we saw Northland iwi leader Mike Smith of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahu win his latest fight in the Supreme Court as he seeks to take Fonterra and six other big polluters, including Genesis Energy and Z Energy, to court over the harm their emissions do.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has found that Smith has the right to sue the seven big polluters for their role in causing climate change and denied the attempt by Fonterra and others to strike the case out. The Court has found that these big polluters may be liable for the harm their climate pollution causes. It’s not over yet, but that’s a big win for the climate and for all of us!
In the USA, following campaigns by Greenpeace and allies, President Biden announced a decision to halt approvals of all fossil gas exports. Again, it’s not the end of that fight there either, but it’s a hugely significant win and shows again what power we have as a movement.
And then there’s the win in Norway, where Greenpeace Nordic and Natur og Ungdom (Young Friends of the Earth Norway) secured a historic victory against the Norwegian State, rendering the approvals of three oil and gas fields in the North Sea invalid on environmental grounds.
I could go on and on, but the point is, as dire as it is to have this new Luxon-led Government seemingly ignoring all evidence and good sense on the need for climate action, we will prevail because the power of the people is stronger than the people in power!