If a Petrobras executive had happened to be on Auckland’s waterfront on the morning of Saturday, May 21, they would now be seriously worried about their company’s investment into deep sea oil in New Zealand.

That’s because they would have seen the strength of the opposition evident at the welcome home for the Flotilla to Stop Deep Sea Oil. It was noisy, passionate, and determined.

A huge contingent from the iwi te Whānau-ā-Apanui made the trip from the East Cape. As well as being there to celebrate the Flotilla’s achievements, the iwi also wanted to make it clear, as spokeswoman Dayle Takitimu put it, that they are obligated to make sure that deep sea oil drilling does not happen in the Raukumara Basin.  

Five of the Flotilla vessels were tied up to Princes Wharf: Secret Affair, Tiama, Windbourne, Siome, and the Vega. Elvis Teddy, the Skipper of the San Pietro, came by road.      

While the Flotilla is back in port for now, and Petrobras is assessing the data from its seismic survey, the campaign to stop deep sea drilling off New Zealand is only just getting started. New Zealand is under threat from every quarter, as the Government continues to bend over backwards in order to attract the deep sea industry here. As a result, New Zealand’s first deep sea wells are expected to be drilled this summer off Canterbury and the Taranaki by Anadarko, the company that had a 25 per cent share in the Deepwater Horizon - the exploratory rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Other companies are also planning drilling their own deep sea wells, all around the country. 

Wherever such drilling occurs, it will be met by a response that matches the enormity of the threat. A Deepwater Horizon-sized spill would decimate the essence of what it is to live in New Zealand, affecting fish stocks, traditions held dear for generations, and the beach lifestyle that we all enjoy so much. Such a spill would also mean the end of our clean green reputation, which is worth billions. Our fishing, agriculture and travel industries all depend on that reputation.  

People will also put up serious resistance on the basis that pursuing the last drops of oil to the deep waters of the most remote, untouched corners of the planet, will also only bring closer the day at which a state of runaway climate change becomes a reality.

That’s something that should inspire us all to try and match the commitment shown by the skippers and crew of the Flotilla … some of whom gave the campaign seven weeks of their lives, in what at times were incredibly tough conditions.