Wellington Scoop

Answering questions about Extinction Rebellion and activism


by Gregor Thompson
By all accounts Friday’s climate change march was a great success, particularly in the capital where an estimated 40,000 Wellingtonians participated. The sun was out with the temperatures reaching upwards of 16 degrees on a late September afternoon, a convenient irony I suppose.

Although change does appear to be in the air, it is impossible to ignore a certain consistent apathetic response from our government. While many people who turned out Friday afternoon will return to their jobs and their own, more personal issues, some are dedicating their lives to this cause. I met up with Dr Sea Rotmann; Extinction Rebellion’s media spokesperson and a dedicated climate activist, to talk about the future of climate activism in New Zealand.

Q: Are you happy with the protest today and do you feel as if New Zealand is on an adequate trajectory?

A: I am really happy with the school protests and the turnout, especially the kids. Kia Kaha! However, I am disappointed in the inaction thus far, particularly from our politicians. I am originally from Austria which is a really, really conservative country and they just declared a climate emergency and they don’t even have a government right now and they have managed to do it. New Zealand still hasn’t with a red green government, that is just appalling.

Q: Granted the government is not doing enough, what are your demands?

A: We are pretty clear on this, first of all, we expect the government to tell the truth and declare an ecological and climate emergency. Our second demand is for them to act now, and to draw down green houses to net zero by 2025. They’re currently going to 2050, if you read the zero carbon bill unfortunately it’s quite toothless and will not achieve what needs to be done. Our third demand, would break the political deadlock because it is to go beyond politics and to leave it up to citizen’s assemblies to figure out how these difficult changes to the system can be made. We understand that political are hamstrung by the mandate which is to get re-elected every three years, so they cannot do anything that is too, ya’ know, dicey. If they follow these three demands, and in particularly in state those binding citizen’s assembly’s they would be told by their own people how to address the problem.

Q: How many members have joined extinction rebellion NZ so far? And Is it increasing?

A: It is certainly increasing, we have signed up 500 people in the last couple of days – we have several thousand on our action network but, obviously it is difficult to measure the commitment of those people. We are hoping to grow, and we look to be. No one is getting paid, it is all voluntary but some of us are definitely doing it as a full time job.

Q: The trademark of extinction rebellion is non-violent, civil disobedience – should we expect to see this in New Zealand in the near future?

A: On the 7th of October, we are going to kick off the global rebellion. We cannot tell you any details, but if anyone is interested come down to Midland Park at 7am and you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Utterly non-violent, completely peaceful. It’s the only way to get attention.

Q: The original British movement was initially supported heavily by the academic and scientific community, does extinction rebellion NZ have this same support?

A: I am a scientist, there are a lot of scientists deeply involved in extinction rebellion. 250 Australian scientists have just signed a letter of support for extinction rebellion, an article was published in Nature calling for all scientists to support our cause. Our movement is based on scientific facts and scientific reality.

Q: Given all of the scientific evidence that substantiates this cause why do you think it is still so difficult to get people to listen?

A: This is why extinction rebellion calls itself the fire alarm and not the fire fighters, because we still need to wake people up to how bad the problem is. It’s so bad that people cannot envisage the gravity of the situation, they cannot envisage why the government hasn’t yet acted… once we have enough people on the streets.

Q: Was the NZ movement set up with help from the British extinction rebellion?

A: No, no, extinction rebellion has a holacratic model. Which means that it is decentralised, and as long as you adhere to the 11 principles and promote the three demands then you can call yourself a member of extinction rebellion and set up a branch. We were pretty early one, one of the more active branches in the world. We are in contact with XR international, we are getting some support from them – we don’t need to reinvent the wheel all the time. The UK is certainly not masterminding it; XR New Zealand is very much its own beast.

Q: Is XR New Zealand doing anything to help New Zealand’s indigenous population?

A: We very much support our indigenous populations endeavours, we are committed to their cause. Maori have been concerned with environmental justice in this country a lot longer than white middle class people, and we want to reach out and build those bridges to carry the voices of those indigenous people. The concept of Kaitiakitanga aligns much closer with our own ideology that those of capitalism.

Q: Finally, what can we do to help?

A: There is a lot we can do, it’s not just about being disruptive and being arrested for it. There are a lot of things that people can do to help with extinction rebellion, it starts with liking us on social media and sharing our posts. Helping us with some donations, joining up to protests… but, willingness to sacrifice one’s own privilege for a cause is the most powerful thing we can do. Non-violent civil disobedience, but not everyone has to do this obviously.

Unlike any protest movement before, climate change effects all of us to some degree. Extinction Rebellions membership reflects this aptly, they are from all walks of life and are simply concerned about something that is certainly incredibly concerning.

Extinction Rebellion are kicking off the ‘Global Rebellion’ on October the 7th, our New Zealand faction will be down at Midland park at 7am demonstrating their dissatisfaction with our government’s inaction. All are encouraged to go on down and watch or participate.


  1. TrevorH, 3. October 2019, 13:55

    Who is funding Extinction Rebellion? What are the movement’s political goals?

  2. Sea, 3. October 2019, 17:50

    Thanks Greg! It’s green house gases we’d like to draw down to net zero, not greenhouses 🙂