2019 was the year that frustration over the slow reaction of leaders to climate change began to boil over, with the SchoolStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion movements taking to the streets across New Zealand and around the world.

Their calls here for the Zero Carbon Bill be passed were heeded, but the pace of change which frustrated climate change activists felt faster and more threatening to farmers and others in rural communities, sparking a counter-protest in November.

But the march was tiny compared to those calling for faster and more stringent climate action.

Protesting farmers surround and jostle a lone climate change activist as the “50 Shades of Green” march reaches Parliament. Photo: Lynn Grieveson
“Farmers have had enough”. A rural health worker joins the “50 Shades of Green” protest. Photo: Lynn Grieveson
Although billed as a protest against the pace and scale of the “billion trees” project, the “50 Shades of Green” march seemed more like a general anti-government protest, with signs (some expletive-laden) attacking Jacinda Ardern, gun reform and the pressure on farmers to meet environmental targets. Photo: Lynn Grieveson
Extinction Rebellion climate change activists staged a day of protest in October, sporadically blocking traffic with dancing and street theatre. Photo: Lynn Grieveson
Extinction Rebellion protestors blocked the main entrance to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in Wellington. Photo: Lynn Grieveson
Protesters spilt onto Lambton Quay, blocking buses and other traffic for several minute intervals. Photo: Madeline Grieveson
Angry motorists were told to wait for gaps between the protestors’ street occupations, before the protest was finally shut down by police in the late afternoon. Photo: Lynn Grieveson
The Extinction Rebellion protests followed marches organised by the SchoolStrike4Climate movement begun by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

It was the first protest action for most of those involved, making the many variations of the sign below a potent message to politicians watching the rallies in front of Parliament:

Although it dominated the headlines, climate change wasn’t the only issue bringing people out onto the streets in 2019.

In a foretaste of 2020, which is predicted to be the year of the “culture wars” with referendums pending on assisted dying and drug reform, marchers came out in support of (and opposing) abortion reform and against euthanasia.

Mental health was a focus of the last election, and also of one of the most emotional protests of this year, when former National MP (now independent) Jami-Lee Ross joined a hikoi to Parliament calling for more action to prevent teen suicide.

Angry at the standard barricades confining protestors to the lawn, marchers stormed through the fences to place photos of their loved ones lost to suicide on the steps of Parliament. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Equally emotional was a protest sparked by Newsroom’s own “Taken by the State” investigation into the uplift of babies and children by Oranga Tamariki.

The Government agency is now overhauling its procedures after an internal investigation into its attempts to uplift a newborn from its mother in Hastings – reported by Newsroom’s Melanie Reid – found a litany of failures.

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