Politicians have mixed views on students' climate change protest
Students will have their voices heard as part of a worldwide day of action against global warming on March 15. Photo / File Some MPs say school students have a right to go on "strike" over global warming, but not all of them agree. Thousands of New Zealand school students plan to go take part in the worldwide day of action over global warming on March 15. Government Minister Phil Twyford said today it was great to see young people getting involved in issues like climate change because "if there's one issue that's going to affect the next generation it's climate change". Fellow Minister Damien O'Connor said there were teacher-only days so March 15 would be a "kids-only" day. "These kids are smart, we are dealing with their future." O'Connor said he would be "absolutely" happy for his five daughters to skip school to attend the protest. But Opposition leader Simon Bridges said it might be better if the day of action took place at the same day as secondary teachers went on strike, April 3. "It's a serious issue but I certainly wouldn't want to say anything that encourages students to be taking time out of their schooling. They've got a lot of time at other points of the day, the weekend to be doing this," he said. Labour MP Greg O'Connor said it should be up to parents to decide what their children were going to do. "Students now, they're a mature little bunch. I think we should just leave it right up to the parents, and every parent should decide what their child is going to do," O'Connor told reporters. "We want more kids involved in politics, and it's a good discussion." The global strike is expected to bring tens of thousands of students on to the streets across Europe, the United States, Australia and other countries. Last week, national co-ordinator Sophie Handford said protests were being organised in more than 20 towns from Russell in the Bay of Islands to Invercargill. "We are thinking like definitely in the thousands across the country," she said. "If we hit 5000, that will be awesome. If we hit more than that, that will be even better." NZ Secondary Principals Council chairman James Morris said school principals would not condone the strike. "Whilst most principals would support students expressing support for climate change action, they would be reluctant to approve students taking time away from their classes to do so," he told the Herald last week. However, Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said awareness of the environment was an important part of the NZ curriculum. "The NZ curriculum also encourages students to participate and take action as critical, informed and responsible citizens," she said. The global movement was sparked by a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who decided last August to stay away from school until the Swedish general election on September 9. She protested by sitting outside the Riksdag (Parliament) every day during school hours with a sign, "Skolstrejk for klimatet (School strike for climate)". The person recently returned from overseas and went to Auckland City Hospital.