Gate-crashing polar bear locked out of conference

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2014
NO GO: An unexpected visitor accompanied Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel to a regional National party conference in an attempt to put climate change on the agenda.

NO GO: An unexpected visitor accompanied Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel to a regional National party conference in an attempt to put climate change on the agenda.

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The doors of the National Party's central North Island conference were barred when a gate-crashing polar bear lumbered up to the security guard.

Greenpeace New Zealand was behind the gimmick that was designed to challenge attendees to consider climate change as "the polar bear in the meeting".

The life-size bear padded up to the door of Hamilton's Kingsgate Hotel about 8.45am on Saturday, accompanied by Greenpeace energy campaigner Steve Abel, but the pair were denied entry.

"Our intention was to highlight the fact that [National] is a party and a government thus far, over the last six years, that has done not only extremely little on climate change but many things that make the problem worse," Abel said.

"We would have tried to walk the polar bear inside and talk to the people there inside the conference foyer but the security . . . made it clear they didn't want the polar bear to come in."

Instead, he and the bear stayed at the door to quiz arriving attendees on whether they were worried climate change wasn't on the agenda for the weekend.

Answers ranged from "no comment" to "There's nothing we can do about it" and "yes".

National MP Steven Joyce was invited to come out and answer the question, but chose not to, Abel said.

Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe originally mistook the crew for media until he saw the "incredibly lifelike" polar bear.

When he was near the door he was asked if it could come into the conference to talk to people about climate change.

"Because it seemed a flippant question I just gave a slightly flippant reply along the lines of - because [Saturday] was such a grotty day - I said ‘Oh, I think you'd find the polar bear would be much happier with the conditions outside rather than the heat inside'."

Though the conference didn't have a specific session on climate change, there was a "lengthy session" of discussion covering environmental issues on Saturday, Macindoe said.

And Abel saw the polar bear stunt was a "friendly challenge" to National party conference attendees.

"The polar bear's inherently disarming.

"It's quite a striking figure and so people's first reaction is ‘Wow'."

But when it came to how the star attraction worked, Abel remained tight-lipped.

"She emerges from the truck as a polar bear," he said.

"She's a polar bear to us."

Further appearances were planned before she headed back to "her Northern Hemisphere home", Abel said.

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- Waikato Times

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