Press‎ > ‎

2009-03-28 Earth Hour New Zealand

posted Apr 14, 2009, 8:16 PM by Joshua Rea   [ updated Apr 14, 2009, 8:55 PM ]

At 8.30pm Saturday 28 March, New Zealanders in 44 cities, towns and regions supported the World Wide Fund for Nature's Earth Hour 2009 by turning off their lights and non-essential appliances, joining nearly 3000 towns and cities and a billion people around the world.

It was said by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), that if every New Zealand household switched off their lights and non-essential appliances for Earth Hour, the country could save up to $500,000!

EECA chief executive Mike Underhill said that by plunging cities and towns into darkness, Earth Hour illustrated the power of collective action to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

"It's easy for people to feel overwhelmed when they are faced with the challenge of climate change, but Earth Hour is an opportunity to see very vividly the impact humans can have when they act with common purpose," he said.

Events were held throughout the country. A free Earth Hour concert was held in Cathedral Square in Christchurch and the lights will go out in Dunedin's Octagon.

Queenstown and Wanaka residents who made an Earth Hour pledge were rewarded with free energy-efficient light bulbs from Energy Mad, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council invited people to take a candle and join an informal celebration at Earnslaw Park in Queenstown.

Several bars in Wanaka's main street used candles during the hour, whilst residents walked up Mt Iron to watch the lights go out.

In Antarctica, New Zealand's 26-member winter team at Scott Base, where temperatures are close to -30 degrees Celsius, shut down to minimum safety lighting and switched off all unnecessary appliances and computers.

In fact, as reported, from an Antarctic research base to the Great Pyramids of Egypt and beyond, the world switched off the lights on Saturday night, dimming skyscrapers, city streets and famous monuments for 60 minutes to highlight the threat of climate change.

Perhaps the happiest Earth Hour participants were the residents of Calgary, in Canada, whose electricity consumption during Earth Hour fell 1 per cent. According to the Calgary Herald, the drop was much less impressive than other Canadian cities, such as Toronto, where energy use was reportedly down 15 per cent. But it was a lot less embarrassing than Calgary's inaugural attempt  last year, when it became the only known city in Canada where energy consumption actually rose (3.6 per cent) during Earth Hour.

Even China took part this year for the first time, cutting lights at Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium and Water Cube, the most prominent 2008 Olympic Games venues.

Earth Hour began two years ago in Sydney. Since then, it has spread around the world. How much power this all saves, let alone carbon, would seem not to be the point. It is all about the message that is being sent - the symbolism.

The World Wide Fund for Nature's New Zealand executive director, Chris Howe, says Earth Hour sent "a strong signal to the Government that as a nation we care about and want action on climate change''.

The fund's global director, Andy Ridley, says while the organisers were worried that the global economic crisis would distract people from taking part, the opposite happened. It featured street parties rather than protests as people tried to dispel their financial despair.

WWF's Dairne Poole, New Zealand's Earth Hour project director, said the event had "exploded" this year, in New Zealand and globally.

"If we collectively take small steps together, on an ongoing basis, we really can effect positive change." 


Watch the Earth Hour Video here: