Copyright Greenpeace/Malcolm Pullman

In speech and in song their rejection of Government approvals to allow oil exploration in their traditional water off East Cape was clear. It sent goosebumps.

“This is not about money, this is about mana, and handing over the signed banners that will be used by the flotilla is a symbol of combining the mana of the Iwi with the people and groups that are supporting us to stop deep sea drilling in our tribal waters,” Rawiri Waititi from te Whānau a Apanui told me.

Later, on TV3 Robert Ruha summed it up, “Our seabed is still our supermarket, it is still our Pak-n-Save, and the damaging effects from drilling damages our food store and takes it away our grandchildren”.

The iwi’s call for support in challenging the Government and Brazilian oil giant, Petrobras’ oil drilling dreams, was heeded by many groups and individuals from all walks of life and was consolidated here.

Greenpeace, Nuclear Free Sea flotilla, Forest and Bird, Coal Action Network, 350 Aotearoa, Coromandel Watchdog and Boardriders Against Drilling have united in the cause too – each with their own particular concerns. Significantly, Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou –the two largest tribes – along with Ngati Kahu and Ngai Tai  pledged support on the day.

People lined up to sign banners that read ‘STOP DEEP SEA OIL’. A powerful passionate haka lead te Whānau a Apanui forward with the banners which were handed to Daniel Mares the skipper of the Vega – a small wooden yacht – that relentlessly rode Pacific waves confronting the French Government until they ended nuclear testing in the Pacific. The Vega is leading the flotilla against deep sea oil drilling.

The flotilla will grow as other boats from around the country from as far afield as Dunedin and the Bay of Islands, head to Cape Runaway next Saturday to meet te Whānau a Apanui on their home turf and work out the next steps.

“Oil spills are a huge risk for the marine environment”, said Clemes Oestreich, skipper of Infinity sailing as part of the flotilla. “We eat fish from the sea, we love the life in the ocean - the last thing we want is to destroy it. In every way it’s not the way humanity should be going. We have every reason to demonstrate against this behaviour”.

Clearly, the tide of opposition is rising.