Eight Out of Ten Want Sea Protest Move Halted

Press release - April 16, 2013
Eight in 10 New Zealanders think that the brakes should be put on the government’s controversial move to criminalise aspects of peaceful protests at sea.

The Crown Minerals Bill is expected to pass its final stage in Parliament today. But, in a Horizon Research poll carried out over the weekend, 79 per cent of those asked said that the amendments to the Bill, which will create new offences against protest activity in the seas around New Zealand, should be withdrawn completely or sent back to a select committee of politicians for more scrutiny and more chance for the public to have a say.

Less than three per cent said they ‘strongly agree’ that the amendments were ‘about right’ and over half of all those questioned opposed the amendment.

The new laws are being proposed after a flotilla of vessels, including several yachts and Te Whanau-a-Apanui fishing vessel the San Pietro, peacefully confronted the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras off the East Cape in 2010. Petrobras has since ditched any plans to drill in New Zealand waters.

And over 60 per cent of National Party supporters think the amendments should be dropped or referred back to a select committee too.

Steve Abel of Greenpeace, who commissioned the polling, said:

“Simon Bridges’ dog of a Bill breaks international law, has been hammered by politicians and lawyers, and is opposed by ordinary New Zealanders.

“His fumbling and bungling to push these controversial amendments through Parliament show a total disregard of public feeling including that of many National Party voters.

“Bridges has already established himself as little more than a yes-man for foreign oil companies.

“The most risky activity in the deep-sea for our economy and way of life is not peaceful protest. It’s deep-sea oil drilling.”

Last week, a range of well-known New Zealand groups and individuals slammed the government’s move.

In a joint statement, Greenpeace, Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer QC, Peter Williams QC, WWF, Forest and Bird, Dame Anne Salmond, Rikirangi Gage of Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Sir Ngatata Love, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, George Armstrong (founder of the Peace Squadron), Amnesty International NZ, Lucy Lawless and many others, said that energy minister Simon Bridges’ “new law is a sledgehammer designed to attack peaceful protest” and is “being bundled through Parliament without proper scrutiny despite its significant constitutional, democratic and human rights implications.”

Over 30,000 people have now added their name to the statement.

The amendments to the Crown Minerals Bill, announced by Simon Bridges on Easter Sunday, “breach international law, and attack our democratic freedoms” said the group.

The amendments faced further criticism when legal advice was released last week which found “that the proposed amendments to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill would breach international law in a number of respects.”

The proposals include penalties up to $50,000 for an individual, up to 12 months imprisonment and up to $100,000 for a body corporate, and enable the Navy or a police officer to nominate assistants who can stop and detain a ship entering an exclusion zone, remove a person from an exclusion zone. All these parties carry next to no criminal or civil liabilities for anything that happens as a result.