Thursday, October 31: A high school student has taken over what was meant to be a speech delivered by Greenpeace head Russel Norman at an Environmental Protection Authority conference today.
Norman had been invited by the EPA to speak at the private event, but in a surprise twist handed the microphone to Wellington high school student, Sorcha Carr, instead. Norman said it was time the Authority started listening to the voices of the future.
In a mic drop moment, Carr told the government agency charged with protecting New Zealand’s environment that it had failed.
"Sacred Heart College is where I should be right now, celebrating my final week of school with pranks and banter. But instead, here I am, because yet again, the people we have entrusted with our lives and environment have failed to protect me, my brothers and my sisters of Aotearoa," she said.
Carr implored the EPA to hold a public hearing into an application by oil giant OMV to undertake high risk deep water drilling off the coast of Otago.
The Authority has been considering the application behind closed doors, despite mounting pressure and a 12,000 strong petition to make it public in order for local communities, iwi, scientists and local businesses to have a say.
Under New Zealand law, the EPA doesn’t need to hold a public consultation for such applications, but has discretion to do so if it deems consultation "necessary or desirable". Until now, the Authority has refused make OMV’s application public.
During her speech, Carr said the impacts of OMV’s drilling could be devastating for the future of young people around the country.
"Oil drilling has no place in Aotearoa. It threatens entire ecosystems, and the fruits of such labour threatens the future of the millions of children around the world and New Zealand," she said.
"It’s time to stop hiding behind the greed and profit. It’s time to stand up and tell the truth. As a democratic society, we deserve to know about this process."
Greenpeace’s Norman says he hopes Carr’s speech will inspire the EPA to put the future of New Zealanders first, and reject OMV’s application.
"Today Sorcha has bravely stood up on behalf of us all, to give us the voice that we’re being denied. The EPA has a moral obligation to act on this," he says.
"Sorcha is one of millions of young people around the world who are being forced to take action on a problem they didn’t create, who are facing a climate emergency on such an immense scale that their future is uncertain. We simply cannot afford to let them down."
The pair filmed the encounter on a mobile phone and posted it online.