As the country braces for Cyclone Cook, the latest and the most devastating in a series of extreme weather events, Greenpeace NZ has slammed Prime Minister Bill English for crying “crocodile tears”.
Greenpeace campaigner, Kate Simcock, says it’s “disgraceful” that the Prime Minister has visited the communities and families affected by extreme flooding at the very same time as actively encouraging oil exploration off New Zealand’s coasts.
“This Government is relentless in their search for new oil, even in the knowledge that we can’t burn half the fossil fuel reserves already discovered if we have any hope of stopping catastrophic climate change,” she says.
“This simple fact means that not a single new oil well can operate anywhere in the world, including New Zealand, for us to have a future.
“Climate change is hitting us hard and it’s hitting New Zealanders now. It’s only April, and we’ve already been inundated with a deluge of extreme storms, flooding, droughts and fires. People across the country are losing their homes. We’re in dire straits – the situation has never been more urgent.
“It’s disgraceful that Bill English is visiting the communities reeling from these terrible storms in a so-called show of support.
“He’s crying crocodile tears, because there is no other explanation for the continued search for new oil other than a desire to put profit before people. The only jobs the oil industry is creating are in flood clean up.”
Last week, Victoria University climate scientist, Professor James Renwick, said the floods, which saw thousands evacuated from their homes, are connected to climate change.
On Tuesday, the crowdfunded Greenpeace boat, Taitu, returned from a three-day protest, 50 nautical miles out to sea, where the world’s biggest seismic blasting ship, the Amazon Warrior, is searching for new oil at extreme depths off the Wairarapa Coast.
The protest saw three activists, including Greenpeace NZ Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, throwing themselves in the water in front of the ship, forcing it to halt its operations.
For the first time in New Zealand history, the protestors have been charged with interfering with the oil exploration ship under Section 101B(1)(c) of the Crown Minerals Act, known as the Anadarko Amendment.
The trio were served the charges not by the police, but by MBIE – the petroleum division of the Government. They face fines of up to $50,000 and 12 months in prison if convicted.
Simcock says this very fact demonstrates the Government is prioritising protecting the oil industry over acting in the best interests the citizens it’s supposed to serve.
“It’s a huge red flag that rather than investing in a transition to renewable energy, the English-led Government is putting time and resources into prosecuting peaceful protestors and diminishing the right to protest in New Zealand by calling it a ‘stupid media stunt’.
“This is a clear sign we are dealing with a Government that’s captured by industry.
“But public opposition to the oil exploration in New Zealand is snowballing. This year we’ve already seen protests in ports, petitions garnering tens of thousands of signatures, and significant local council and iwi opposition.
“I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg. A new era of protest and climate justice has begun. People everywhere are rising up to change the course of the most significant fight in human history – climate change.
“The current Government should prepare for a battering of its oil agenda. We need to make sure that after the elections in September, the dinosaurs that currently run it are left behind in the wrong side of history, where they belong.”