Govt drops charges against Greenpeace following Amazon Warrior action

Press release - April 30, 2018
Today Greenpeace has been advised that the charges laid against the organisation for action last April to stop the Amazon Warrior seismic blasting for oil at sea are to be dropped.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will not pursue the hefty charges laid against Greenpeace under the controversial Anadarko Amendment, which means the organisation now avoids up to $200,000 in fines.

Greenpeace Executive Director, Russel Norman, and climate activist, Sara Howell, will still face charges for their part in the action. They have always admitted their conduct but say they should not face conviction.

They will plead guilty and seek a discharge without conviction on the basis that their conduct was justified and necessary to bring about required change to government policy. If the Court agrees, the outcome would be the same as an acquittal.

The news follows the Government’s historic announcement earlier this month of an end to all new offshore oil and gas exploration.

Last April, Norman and Howell swam in front of the Amazon Warrior - the largest oil exploration ship in the world - forcing it to stop its search for oil for the day.

The pair and Greenpeace were subsequently charged for the first time in New Zealand history under a controversial amendment to the Crown Minerals Act made by Simon Bridges in 2013 when he was Minister of Energy, known as the Anadarko Amendment, which outlaws peaceful protest against oil ships at sea.

"We have never denied the facts, that we defied the ban on protest at sea. We see the best course of action now is to plead guilty while making a plea in mitigation in Court on the grounds that our actions were reasonable and honourable given the threat of climate change. We remain hopeful that the Court will agree, given the importance of this issue," says Norman.

"Taking this route will also save supporter money and court time, and allow us to continue tackling climate change."

High profile witnesses including the former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong; the world’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen; and UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author, James Renwick of Victoria University; will be providing supporting statements in the case.

Norman says the fact that charges against Greenpeace have been dropped is a "breakthrough" that comes after a year-long legal process, and follows a seven-year campaign to end oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.

"The Amazon Warrior protest was part of an almost decade-long campaign to bring an end to fossil fuel exploration in our seas given the very urgent and real threat of climate change - and we’ve just had a significant victory with that campaign," Norman says.

"Over seven years, tens of thousands of people have marched, protested and lobbied their local leaders against oil exploration. This culminated in Jacinda Ardern’s announcement to end new offshore oil and gas permits, which puts four million square kilometres of the Earth’s surface out of bounds for new oil and gas exploration.

"Although the tide has turned irreversibly against big oil in New Zealand waters, the fight is not yet over. We still want to see an end to onshore extraction and the revoking of existing permits."

Fellow activist, Howell, says it’s been encouraging to see how effective peaceful protest can be.

"I’m proud and humbled that I had the opportunity to contribute to an incredible, people-powered movement that’s resulted in an end to new offshore oil and gas exploration permits.

"While I will take responsibility for what I did in the Court, I believe it was necessary because all of the life on this planet - in its oceans, mountains, rivers, forests, and cities - is marvelous and brilliant. It is delicately balanced and too special to destroy."

Greenpeace, Norman, and Howell were due to begin trial in the Napier District Court on Monday. They will now appear by video link from Auckland District Court to lodge their pleas, and the case will be adjourned for sentencing on a date yet to be fixed.