Greenpeace’s Taitu crew plead Not Guilty in historic climate court case

Press release - August 28, 2017
Greenpeace and the activists charged under the ‘Anadarko Amendment’ after swimming in front of the world’s largest seismic oil ship, have pleaded Not Guilty.

Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, and activist Sara Howell, will be using a greater good defence to fight the charges.

Norman says it was necessary to stop the Amazon Warrior searching for oil on behalf of Statoil and Chevron in order to protect people from climate change being driven by the oil industry.

“By stopping this ship blasting our seafloor in search of new deep sea oil, we were stopping a far greater wrong - the destruction of our climate, and the risk to our marine life and coastal communities from a catastrophic oil spill,” he says.

“Climate change is no longer a faraway concept for future generations to deal with. It’s here and it’s threatening our survival. The extreme weather events that New Zealand has experienced in recent years are exactly the kinds of outcomes that we can expect in a warming world.

“Every single person and living thing on this planet will be affected by climate change. If we don’t take action now, one in six of the world’s species face extinction, with the most at-risk species being here in New Zealand.

“The science says that if we are to have any chance of avoiding a climate catastrophe, we can’t afford to burn half of the fossil fuel reserves we know about, let alone search for more. The new oil Statoil has been searching for in New Zealand is the very oil that will drive us towards the edge if it is extracted and burnt.

“There has never been a more urgent time to act and stop the fossil fuel companies that are being allowed by governments to drive this destruction. For us to have a future, the oil industry must have no future.”

In April, Norman, Howell, and Gavin Mulvay, a kite-maker from Ashburton, were charged by the oil division of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), for interfering with the Amazon Warrior. Greenpeace New Zealand has also been charged.

The group had travelled more than 50 nautical miles out to the oil ship in the crowd-funded boat, Taitu, and put themselves in the water in its path, forcing it to stop seismic blasting for the day.

It’s the first time anyone has been charged under the 2013 Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, dubbed the 'Anadarko Amendment', which was put in place specifically to stop protests at sea around oil exploration.

The trio were subsequently offered the possibility of diversion, but Norman and Howell have opted instead to fight the charges.

Norman says the decision to plead Not Guilty became more pertinent after recent revelations that controversial spy agency, Thompson & Clark Investigations, was hired by Statoil and Anadarko with the knowledge of the Government to undertake surveillance of Greenpeace staff and volunteers.

Statoil has since admitted paying Thompson & Clark Investigations, and MBIE has also said it received information from the controversial spy agency - information it is using to prosecute the climate activists.

Norman says these admissions are just the tip of the iceberg.

“The material we’ve seen shows our people have been watched every day, for years. They’ve been followed to their homes, they’ve been tailed in their personal time, they’ve had their privacy breached in completely unacceptable ways” he says.

“I have to fight these charges laid against us because we are in a climate emergency that’s being fuelled by the oil industry and propped up by our own Government. Politicians and industry are failing us, but people everywhere are rising up and taking action.”

Public opposition to the Amazon Warrior has seen protests in ports, petitions garnering tens of thousands of signatures, and significant iwi opposition.