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Climate groups across Aotearoa challenge NZ banks

Today grassroots climate action groups across Aotearoa took action to challenge New Zealand banks to show climate leadership and cut all corporate ties with coal, oil and gas companies.
The events in Auckland, Kāpiti, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, and Dunedin were coordinated by 350 Aotearoa, as part of their Fossil Free Banks campaign, calling for banks to go “Fossil Free’ by cutting their ties with the fossil fuel industry.

The actions across Aotearoa specifically called on New Zealand-owned banks Kiwibank, TSB, and the Co-operative Bank to take leadership and commit to going “Fossil Free”. This requires them to create and publish an ethical investment policy that rules out investing in, and an ethical lending policy that rules out lending to or underwriting, the fossil fuel industry.

350 Aotearoa spokesperson, Erica Finnie, said, “New Zealand-owned banks are in the best position to show leadership by committing to policies that acknowledge that banks have a major role to play in stopping the worst of climate change. Banks have the power to morally bankrupt the fossil fuel industry by refusing to invest in or lend to their business model that is wrecking our planet now, and for future generations.”

“Our major Australian-owned banks are stopping the vital transition to 100% clean energy by funnelling billions of dollars towards fossil fuel companies and projects. New Zealanders need a bank we can trust to keep our money out of coal, oil and gas. We’re calling on our New Zealand-owned banks to take a stand by creating ethical investment and lending policies that ensure not a cent of our money will ever go towards financing coal, oil, or gas

The events started in Auckland on Friday afternoon. About 50 people gathered at Kiwibank near Aotea Square, staging a series of challenges between Kiwibank, TSB and the Co-operative Bank. The challenges in Auckland included a coal and spoon race involving depositing the coal into a “carbon sink,” and a three-legged race where teams relayed their paper money savings out of oily investments into a fossil free piggy bank.

"We're giving our New Zealand-owned banks a friendly push to cross the fossil free finish-line,' local 350 Auckland organiser Alex Johnston said. "We want them to pick up the pace and show leadership by bringing out policies where they agree never to invest in or lend to the fossil fuel industry."

This morning on Cuba St in Wellington, a crowd of 100 people watched participants representing their banks in challenges. This included a tug-of-war of banks vs. the people of Aotearoa demanding climate action and a running race around the iconic bucket fountain.

“It is simply unacceptable that Wellingtonians don’t have the option of a 100% fossil free bank to turn to. This action sends a strong message that we would fully support any bank that is brave enough to step up and go fully fossil free”, said Patrick Geddes, 350 Wellington organiser.

This morning in Nelson, 350 Nelson Tasman staged a competition between Cooperative Bank, Kiwibank, and TSB Bank to show that these three banks should be racing to be the first Fossil Free bank in New Zealand. Members of the group, as well as passersby, took part in games of bean bag toss to “put coal back in the ground”, trying to win themselves a spot on the Fossil Free podium. The group was also signing letters to be delivered to each of the three banks.

350 Nelson Tasman organiser Monica Nelson said, “We want our banks can make a powerful statement and commit that they will never invest in, or loan money to, the fossil fuel industry; stripping the industry of its social licence to operate.”

In Dunedin, 50 climate action group 350 Ōtepoti Dunedin staged challenges for TSB, Kiwibank and the Co-operative Bank in front of Dunedin Railway Station, including a coal and spoon race which was completed by “leaving it in the ground”, a three-legged race where participants were bound together with red tape, and a coal sack race. Meanwhile, participants dressed as the Australian-owned banks, ANZ, ASB, BNZ, and Westpac were unable to participate in the race due to the petrol chained to their ankles. The creative street theatre highlighted the financial ties banks have to the fossil fuel industry and the role of the banks play in the transition to a zero carbon economy.

In Christchurch today 30 people came together outside Kiwibank on Colombo Street, to write messages to their banks asking them to go ‘Fossil Free’. They also took part in a challenge to put ‘coal back in the hole’, with a hacky sack game.

350 Aotearoa spokesperson Erica Finnie said “In 2019 it’s appalling that New Zealanders don’t have a bank that takes a stand against supporting the fossil fuel industry. We came together across the country to demand that our banks step up and respond to customers’ demand for a banking option that is committed to climate leadership.”

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