Greenpeace is crowdfunding to buy a boat to confront the world’s biggest seismic blasting ship, the Amazon Warrior, as it searches for oil off the East Coast of the North Island.
The organisation will be running an open application process for crew and will ask donors to choose a name for the vessel.
Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director, Russel Norman, says the activity is part of a widespread campaign to kick Statoil and Chevron out of New Zealand.
The oil giants are using the 125-metre long Amazon Warrior, dubbed “The Beast” by people around the country, to search for oil to drill.
“We have a problem with oil in this country. We have a government and industry who continue to put profits above people’s lives, even in the knowledge that not a single new oil well, gas field or coal mine can operate anywhere if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe,” he says.
“Just this morning, New Zealand’s petroleum association, PEPANZ, went on a desperate PR offensive and made bizarre statements acknowledging climate change as an urgent issue in the same breath as calling for the Government to grow our oil sector and invest more money into searching for new oil.
“We will continue to fight oil on land and at sea for one simple reason: If we are to have a future, the oil industry must have no future.”
The Amazon Warrior has been searching for oil off the Wairarapa Coast since last November. This involves blasting the seafloor, every eight seconds, day and night.
The ship is commissioned by Statoil and Chevron, who have permits to drill to extreme depths of up to three kilometres if oil is found.
“The Fossil Fuel President of the United States, Donald Trump, has investments in Chevron, and a large chunk of his presidential inauguration was funded by the company,” says Norman.
“You could say The Beast is out here doing the Trump’s dirty work, blasting our pristine oceans and causing terrible distress to our unique whales and dolphins.”
Public opposition to the Amazon Warrior has seen protests in ports, petitions garnering tens of thousands of signatures, and significant iwi opposition.
Last year more than 80 hapū from the East Coast formed the group, Te Ikaroa, to demand the Amazon Warrior leave their customary waters.
In January, Greenpeace and Te Ikaroa travelled nearly 50 nautical miles in small inflatables to confront the ship and deliver messages signed by almost 80,000 New Zealanders.
And then at the beginning of March, traditional Māori voyaging canoe, Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, went out to deliver a second message.
Norman says it’s time to go to sea again.
“We want to take more people with us, stay out there for longer, and do it in a boat that’s people-powered,” he says.
“We’ve already found some options that would be perfect for the job. They remind me of Greenpeace’s very first boat, the Phyllis Cormack, which our founders used to challenge nuclear superpowers in Amchitka, Alaska in 1971.
“Here we are 46 years later with the biggest fight in human history ahead of us. Climate change is threatening our very survival. It affects everyone and everything, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse. If we don’t act now, we face a hellish existence.”
Greenpeace plans to set out on the journey in the coming months.
Protests are also being planned for the upcoming oil industry Petroleum Conference in New Plymouth from March 21-23.
‘The People’s Climate Rally’ has been organised by a coalition of groups campaigning on climate change, fracking, oil and gas drilling and social justice, and will include three days of peaceful civil disobedience, workshops and music.
“The greedy oil industry is desperately fighting for its own survival. Politicians and industry are failing us, but people everywhere are rising up,” Norman says.
“Hope exists in people standing together and demanding change. When we stand together, we always win.”