Police Exclusion Orders Withdrawn | The Jackal

23 Apr 2011

Police Exclusion Orders Withdrawn

Protesters have had another victory in the battle against oil exploitation in what is turning out to be an extensive campaign. Their protest came about in response to calls from East Cape iwi Te Whanau a Apanui, who oppose deep sea oil drilling. National has received considerable criticism for not undertaking a proper consultation process concerning the venture.

A flotilla of six ships with around 60 protestors consequently set sail from Auckland on Sunday the 21st March, to intervene in Petrobras' oil exploration off the East Cape, which had no public or local iwi mandate to proceed.

Despite minimal returns of only 5% from any oil that is discovered and significant tax breaks for the oil industry compared to New Zealands extensive investment, Jerry Brownlee expressed his enthusiasm for the venture:

“Given Petrobras’s expertise, and financial and technical pedigree, this is an exciting step into areas of New Zealand until now unexplored,” the Minster of Energy and Resources said.

Deep sea oil deposits have been largely unexplored until recent times because they are inherently dangerous to extract. Peak oil and further demands for the dwindling resource are causing desperation amongst oil companies, driving them to undertake riskier extraction processes. The National Government has no policy that governs the safety aspects of deep sea oil extraction with only one part time inspector for the some 59 oil wells throughout New Zealand.

The lack of safety regulations, consequences of oil spills, a lack of remedial infrastructure, the effects a spill would have on other profitable industries, minimal returns and considerations of climate change effects; culminated in Greenpeace and local East Coast iwi joining forces with other organisations* for the protest campaign. The environmentalist's efforts within New Zealand initially halted Petrobras' exploration process off the East Coast and in so doing received much consternation from the National Government.

Petrobras representatives traveled to the area to consult with local Te Whanau a Apanui iwi who unanimously voted against oil drilling in their ancestral waters. Petrobras then reported that they had a successful meeting and were now friends with the tribal leaders... this was anything but the case.

Mr Key said the legal issue was complicated because the Orient Explorer was a foreign-flagged ship in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone. He initially stated that he was awaiting legal advice after Police Minister Judith Collins approached Crown Law for a determination on whether the Police could act within the law. This drew many to conclude that legislation would need to be implemented before any legal right was given to the Police in undertaking action at the Governments behest.

“The question is whether the police are in a position to do something about it when it is in the EEZ, and Crown Law is clarifying that... the position needs to be clarified as to what the police can or can't do," Mr Key said.

A Navy ship was then sent to the area with a contingent of Police on board, presumably because the Crown Law office had advised the National Government that they had a legal right to intervene in the protest. Key said police had used a long-standing memorandum of understanding with the Navy to deploy a ship to the scene.
The skippers of the protest fleet were then served exclusion notices requiring them to get no closer than 250 metres from the bow or stern and 200m from the port and starboard sides of the Ocean Explorer and Ocean Pioneer. The notices stated that not abiding could incur a maximum fine of $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment.

Despite the notices, the protestors vowed to continue their activism and on 21st April set sail again to intervene in the deep-sea oil exploration process. When the flotilla had located the survey ship, the Police warned two protest vessels that they were on course for a collision and ordered them to change direction. It is reported by Greenpeace that the Police had ordered them to turn into the seismic testing arrays that trail up to 10 kilometres behind the survey ship Orient Explorer.

The Police, later realising their mistake then ordered the two protest vessels to change course again to avoid the collision that their initial orders would have caused. This undermines claims that the Police have safety as their top priority.

On the same day, Oil and Gas corporate affairs manager Chris Roberts said he was confident oil companies would do their best to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The companies themselves have the greatest incentive to get things right, they can't afford reputationally or financially to get things wrong," Mr Roberts said.

The fact that the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred because BP was cutting corners to save time and money seems to have been overlooked by Mr Roberts. Being that the maximum imposable fine in New Zealand is $200,000 for an oil spill, we can put the statement by Mr Roberts down to more unsubstantiated spin by National. Petrobras having a good reputation is also debatable.

Yesterday the Maritime Safety Authority formally (and in writing) WITHDREW the exclusion orders that were issued by Police to protest boats, which puts into question the legality of the exclusion orders in the first place and whether John Key had received proper legal advise from Crown Law at all.

*Forest and Bird, Coromandel Watchdog, Coal Action Network, The Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla and 350 Aotearoa.

Update @ 3:55 PM - Source: Stop Deep Sea Oil

Iwi Fishing Boat Disrupts Oil Survey Ship 

Whakatāne, Saturday 23 April 2011: Today in the face of navy warship HMNZS Taupo, the crew of te Whānau ā Apanui’s fishing boat San Pietro went fishing at a safe distance in front of the deep sea oil survey ship, Orient Explorer. The longline with visible buoys was deployed within te Whānau ā Apanui ‘s customary fishing grounds.
A navy tender carrying police moves in to apprehend the "Stop Deep Sea Oil" flotilla vessel, the Te Whanau a Apanui fishing boat San Pietro, from under the bows of the seismic survey ship Orient Explorer off East Cape today.
From onboard San Pietro, te Whānau ā Apanui tribal leader Rikirangi Gage radioed the Captain of the Orient Explorer and said, “You are not welcome in our waters. Accordingly and as an expression of our mana in these waters and our deep concern for the adverse effects of deep sea drilling, we will be positioning the te Whānau ā Apanui vessel directly in your path…We will not be moving, we will be doing some fishing. That’s what our waters are for, not for pollution… This is not a protest. We are defending tribal waters and our rights from reckless Government policies and the threat of deep sea drilling, which our hapū have not consented to and continue to oppose…” (1)

The Orient Explorer did not stop as police on two inflatables boarded the San Pietro.

Mr Gage said, “Te Whānau ā Apanui oppose Petrobras’ deep sea oil prospecting and drilling for good reasons. Our ancestors didn’t instruct us to be selfish in the way that the Government is thinking, risking so much and thinking of so few. A longer term perspective shows that bringing up oil from under the deep sea floor to be burnt will cause harm to ourselves, our resources and the world around us.”

“The Government have abused their power by first ignoring us, then apologising to us, now blaming the people out here with their heads on the line who want this to stop. Our mana is not for sale. What kind of people are we if the gifts we give to the next generations are beaches covered with oil and a dead sea? Or big floods, storms and droughts? The first thing we must always do is protect our food resources. Survival comes first.”

“Today a net of a new generation goes fishing, one that will catch the lies and one we intend to stop deep sea oil prospecting in its tracks.”

“Our ancestors did not agree to a Treaty that would ignore the wishes and needs of future generations and our environment. They carefully positioned us to continue to make good decisions that would enable the future of our peoples and our cultures.”
Listen to the audio here.
Police chase the fishing vessel San Pietro to arrest Captain Elvis Teddy.
San Pietro, is the longliner owned by East Coast iwi, Te Whānau ā Apanui and is part of the flotilla including Greenpeace and the Nuclear Free Flotilla, in its third week of opposing deep sea oil drilling.

Stuff reports: Police make arrest on protest ship.

Police could not go into further detail of what activity was being carried by the protest vessel or what the skipper would be charged with.

Radio NZ reports:
Oil exploration protest arrest

A police spokesperson says the protest boat was boarded by officers from a naval vessel and the skipper was arrested for breaching the Maritime Transport Act.

Manu Caddie writes:

The main claims the politicians and lobbyists are clinging on to now seem to be: (a) the economic potential outweighs the risks; (b) adequate regulations will be in place before any drilling commences; and (c) any environmental or economic risks associated with their activities are born entirely by the mining companies and their insurers.

Let’s look at those claims

The Herald reports:

San Pietro captain, Elvis Teddy, was arrested and taken back to the navy  warship HMNZS Taupo, and returned to Tauranga police station, a  Greenpeace campaigner told NZPA.
Read the full article here.