Public rally as flotilla leaves Auckland for Moruroa to protest French nuclear tests. 08/06/1995 © Greenpeace / Dave Hallett

New Zealand has got a great tradition when it comes to flotillas – groups of small yachts sailing huge distances to try and alter the course of the world.

In the 1990s, a flotilla sailed to Moruroa as part of an ultimately successful effort to put a stop to French nuclear testing there.

And in 2001, five yachts -later joined by the Rainbow Warrior - sailed into the Tasman Sea to protest a shipment of deadly reprocessed nuclear fuel, on its way to the now stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant.

And so here we go again. This coming Sunday, March the 27th, the Flotilla to Stop Deep Sea Oil will set sail from Auckland to the East Cape, to do something towards addressing the latest threat to our planet. 

The Flotilla will be representing the opposition to deep sea oil drilling by a variety of groups, including Greenpeace, 350 Aotearoa, and the Climate Action Network.

It’s headed to Whangaparaoa Bay at Cape Runaway because that’s where the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras is about to start the groundwork to drill for oil off the spectacular East Cape of the North Island, in a block of seabed the company bought the rights to from the Government last year. The depths of the water in that block go as deep as 3000 metres – twice as deep as the water in which the Deepwater Horizon was working in … and the deeper the water, the bigger the risk of a spill.

Petrobras is here as part of a global push by the oil industry to open up new frontiers in oil recovery, as the easy-to-reach stuff runs out. As part of this, they have been setting up shop in places like the Arctic, and here, in New Zealand – places where the oil is far harder to reach, whether that be because of icebergs threatening to knock over rigs, or in the case of Petrobras, because it is likely to be working in what is, for the oil industry, extremely deep and inhospitable waters.

While the threat of of runaway climate change, and a Deepwater Horizon-style oil spill off New Zealand’s coast, might be terrifying - and yes, perhaps depressing - there’s nothing like taking positive action against something to alleviate that.

That’s why I’d suggest that you get down to the West side of Princes Wharf, this Sunday the 27th of March, to see off the flotilla that’s out to stop deep sea oil. If you can make it to Princes Wharf on a boat, even better. You’ll hear one of the members of the original Nuclear Free Flotilla explain why climate change is to the 21st century what the threat of nuclear holocaust was to the 20th century. You’ll hear from Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, whose tribal lands are first up in terms of being threatened by deep sea oil. And you’ll get to see the Greenpeace office sing a song of pacific solidarity – Nga Iwi E.

So, to recap: be on, or beside, the Western side of Princes Wharf, downtown Auckland, at 12:30 pm this coming Sunday, the 27th of March. 

The flotilla will cast off at 2 pm. Being there, and lending your voice to the cheers that will go up as they sail East, will send a strong message to the Government, and to Petrobras, that New Zealand doesn’t want deep sea oil drilling in our waters because we never want to see a disaster like that in the Gulf of Mexico, and because the climate crisis requires urgent positive action.  It will make you feel good about having made a difference.