When the Government rammed through legislation on 16 April that criminalises key aspects of peaceful protest at sea, many New Zealanders were angered. Angered by the affront to democracy and to our longheld tradition and right to peaceful protest.

As Peter Williams QC said, “The power of protest is at the heart of democracy”. Peter is himself a veteran of the 1995 flotilla protest to Moruroa against French testing. 

So we felt it was time to recall just how we have all benefited from that right and asked Peter to voice this TV clip depicting iconic moments of the sorts of protest at sea that would no longer be possible under the Government's draconian new legislation (now known as the Anadarko Amendment) if a 500 meter distance from vessels had to be obeyed.


The first footage is of a Greenpeace inflatable capsized by barrels of toxic waste being dumped in the Atlantic in 1982. The ship RIJNBORG evicts its 7000 ton cargo of nuclear waste. As a result of repeated actions against ocean dumping, 1983 becomes the first year since the end of the second world war when officially no radioactive wastes are dumped at sea.

Confrontation of whaling at sea helped bring about the 1982 UN moratorium on commercial whaling. However Japan continues to whale under the loophole allowing “scientific whaling”. Greenpeace set out to label the whaling illegal as these shots from the Southern Ocean in the summer of 1999/2000 depict.

Ironically it is Simon Bridges’ new law that renders this sort of protest illegal in the EEZ under the pretext of protecting the “legitimate business” of oil drilling activities. Commercial whaling was also considered “legitimate business”..

The next shot is the iconic 1979 protest in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour against the nuclear submarine the USS Hado. Nuclear ship visits were ended in 1984 after numerous at sea protests like this and the our nuclear free status was cemented in law in 1987.

The atomic explosion is a French atmospheric nuclear test at Moruroa. Atmospheric testing ended in 1974 after many vessels had sailed in protest including the Navy frigates Otago and Canterbury sent in protest by the New Zealand Government in 1973.

Our present government sent a Navy frigate against deep-sea oil protesters in 2010 as a response to the flotilla against Brazilian oil giant Petrobras’ seismic survey vessel off the East Cape. The shot of Greenpeace activist Kylie Matthews in the water is from that protest. The alliance between Greenpeace and Te Whanau a Apanui resulted in the abandonment of drilling plans by Petrobras.

Defend the right to Protest at Sea - Sign the statement now.