Protesters 'shattered' as Coromandel votes against climate change declaration

The Thames-Coromandel District Council has outraged protesters by voting against signing the Local Government Leader's Climate Change Declaration.

At a packed council meeting in Thames on Tuesday, councillors rejected pleas from school children and locals to show environmental leadership.

The vote went three in favour of signing the declaration, and five against.

On March 15, thousands of school students around the country went on strike as part of a worldwide protest against what they saw as a lack of action by politicians to address climate change.

And it wasn't just the big cities taking part. Many people in Thames rose up against the threat of rising sea levels.

On Tuesday the protestors were back, calling for action outside the Thames-Coromandel Council. It was the same inside, where councillors faced a wall of discontent.

So far, 60 mayors and councils around the country have signed up to the declaration on Climate Change, with only a few holding out.

Lillian Balfour and Helena Mayer organised the Thames youth march last month, and say they're disappointed by the council.

"The fact they didn't even want to take the first step, I was shattered. There were a few tears," says Balfour, a Thames High School student.

"My message to the Mayor is listen to the youth voice and take our future seriously," Mayer says.

The council's own figures show that a half-metre sea-level rise will cost $5 million to replace core council infrastructure, while a three-metre rise could cost as much as $500 million.

The region was hit by a massive storm in January last year, which tore up roads and caused widespread damage.

"Anyone along the coast knows how devastating and serious that was, and that is nothing compared with what is predicted for catastrophic climate change," says Hauraki Coromandel Climate Action spokesperson Sheena Beaton.

But the local mayor says she's not a climate change denier. She says the decision not to sign the document was because the council could be legally at risk.

"No one else has sought legal advice. This declaration doesn't indemnify us from action or inaction," says Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie.

But that inaction could come at a cost. Local body elections are scheduled for October.