Our collective environmental responsibility

In the recently published Sea Change: Climate Politics and New Zealand (BwB, 2017), author Bronwyn Hayward emphasises the need to “address shared problems like climate change through collective action at many levels”.

Bronwyn argues: “It is only through collective, democratic action involving ordinary people… that we will achieve and sustain the extraordinary policy transformations needed to address climate change and hold powerful interests to account.”

As union members we understand the power of the collective. The recently relaunched PSA Eco Network is exploring the unique role of our union in encouraging democratic conversations and collective action on climate change and other environmental issues. 

The need to adapt

PSA members working in health, environmental services, primary industries, town planning, civil defence and more are already planning for and grappling with changes brought on by a changing climate and increasingly severe extreme weather events. All public and community services, and workers, will need to adapt. 

Of course, the nature and manner of our work also affects the environment. This includes travel, waste, procurement, and energy consumption. 

We also know that the drivers and impacts of environmental damage are not distributed evenly. 

We have a responsibility as a union to show leadership on these issues. 

Eco meeting

Taking part in the ECO Network planning day in Wellington were PSA Assistant Secretary Jeff Osborne, Fiona Hodge, Karen Munro, union organiser Susannah Bailey and Cassie McCracken.

From its growing base of 1033 members the Eco Network is well placed to take this lead, and recently held member planning days in Auckland and Wellington.

These were a great opportunity to connect interested members, share what’s already happening in our workplaces, tap into the skills and knowledge of our membership and build a plan for the network.

Ideas discussed include connecting interested members virtually, sharing ideas and resources, influencing policy and practice through collective bargaining, political lobbying, and promoting environmental campaigns run by PSA members.


Union activity on environmental issues is steadily gaining momentum. Recent examples include an Open Letter in April on ending oil and gas exploration - co-signed by PSA - just prior to the Government's announcement it will issue no new offshore exploration permits.

Next to this the CTU is continuing its work on a just transition to a sustainable economy.

Other signs of change include Health Minister David Clark singling out the need for a strong response to climate change in his expectations for DHBs, with reference to “both mitigation and adaptation strategies”.

PSA members can join the PSA Eco reps Network at psa.org.nz/eco

Contributed by Susannah Bailey