Greenpeace have plastered: ‘Simon Bridges Pants on Fire’ on a central Wellington billboard, measuring almost 300 square metres and seen by thousands of people every day, and challenged the National MP to clear his name by releasing full details of a meeting he had with oil company Shell.
Greenpeace have booked the billboard, in the middle of Wellington at the corner of Manners Street and Cuba Street, for the next few weeks.
Bridges had denied, in Parliament, having contact with oil companies about a controversial Crown Minerals Bill amendment, which concerns protests at sea. But when it emerged that he had met Shell just weeks before announcing the amendment, the Labour Party said it ‘appears that Mr Bridges misled Parliament’.
Greenpeace have asked the energy minister to release full, uncensored details of the meeting he admits to having with Shell on 14 February 2013. But, despite being asked weeks ago, Bridges hasn’t released details of the meeting. Little over a month after meeting Shell, Bridges announced plans to criminalise aspects of protesting at sea.
4 September 2012: Government minister Steven Joyce meets Shell bosses. Shell expresses concern about protests at sea and what they call the Government’s ‘insufficient legal authority’.
14 February 2013: Energy minister Simon Bridges meets Shell bosses. No details of this meeting have been made public. End of February: Bridges takes paper to Cabinet which states that ‘the upstream oil and gas industry has sought a more robust government response to threats of, and actual, direct protest action’.
31 March (Easter Sunday): Bridges publicly announces an amendment to the Crown Minerals Bill to ban protests at sea.
10 April: Parliamentary question submitted asking Bridges if anyone from the oil industry had asked for amendments to be drafted to the Crown Minerals Bill. Bridges replies: ‘no’.
30 May: Documents released showing that Bridges had met Shell in February, and Joyce had met Shell in September.
31 May: Opposition accuse Bridges of misleading Parliament. 4 June: Greenpeace write to Bridges asking for the release of the 14 February meeting if the energy minister is to clear his name of misleading Parliament.
1 July: Bridges’ office replies to Greenpeace request. They do not release any details of the meeting and instead ‘extend the period for responding’.
In the letter to Bridges, Greenpeace say that releasing all the details of the 14 February meeting ‘is the only way that you can restore confidence that you have not misled Parliament or the public on this matter and assure us that you are dispatching your responsibility as Minister in the interests of all New Zealanders.’
Nathan Argent, Greenpeace’s chief political advisor, said: “It looks like Simon Bridges’ pants may very well be on fire, and that’s not a great look for our energy minister. “He’s had a chance for the last few weeks to douse the flames, but he’s instead kept the flares. “And now thousands and thousands of people in the capital city, every day for the whole month, will get to see his misleading fashion sense. “It’s simple, Simon. Release all the details of the meeting with Shell. It’s the only way to avoid the uncomfortable heat.”
45,000 people have now added their name to a joint statement released earlier this year against the law change. The statement says that 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.”
Legal advice has already found ‘that the proposed amendments to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill would breach international law in a number of respects.’ The amendment includes penalties of up to $50,000 for an individual, up to 12 months imprisonment and up to $100,000 for a body corporate, and enables the Navy or a police officer to nominate assistants who can stop and detain a ship entering an exclusion zone, and 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.